Retention & Destruction of DNA and fingerprint evidence

Following the implementation of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the rules governing the retention and destruction of DNA and fingerprint evidence (samples and profiles) was radically overhauled.

Until the Act came into force, DNA and fingerprint evidence would be retained indefinitely regardless of whether guilt or innocence had been established in the case. The only way to have this evidence deleted and destroyed was to show ‘exceptional circumstances’ which by its very nature was extremely rare. This meant that someone arrested by the police for even a minor offence which they were later shown to be being innocent of would have their DNA and fingerprint profiles kept on record forever alongside those who had been convicted of the most serious offences.

The case of S & Marper v United Kingdom which came before the European Court of Human Rights in 2008 declared the practice of indefinite retention regardless of guilt or innocence to be incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights as it created a disproportionate interference with an innocent person’s right to private life. This ruling was then later affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2011. The Government responded to these findings through the Protection of Freedoms Act which has made significant changes to the rules for retention and destruction of DNA and fingerprint evidence, and these changes came into effect on the 31 October 2013 through amendments to the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

The new rules set out clear retention periods for samples of DNA and the profiles taken from DNA and fingerprints samples and specify when the evidence should be destroyed in particular circumstances.  The rules now make a distinction between the most serious offences (Qualifying Offences), whether guilt or innocence has been established and the age of the offender. These rules are not easy to interpret and if you have had DNA or fingerprint samples taken from you in connection with a criminal investigation and are concerned how long this evidence will be retained then this is something we will be able to assist with.

 

Our Service

  • Helping you understand the retention and destruction rules for DNA and fingerprint evidence.
  • Making representations on your behalf to the relevant bodies to have the retention of these samples reviewed and, if appropriate, destroyed.
  • Advising and representing you should an application be made for the retention period in your particular case to be extended (a power that can be exercised even if you are acquitted, under s63F Police & Criminal Evidence Act).
 

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Ben Holden

Ben Holden

Solicitor, Trial Advocate and Team Leader
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