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Friday, 20 March 2009

Innocents to be kept on DNA database?

The Police Minister gave me a clear sign today that the Government will try and keep collecting the details of innocent people on the UK’s DNA database – despite an EU ruling.

In December the European Court ruled it unlawful that the database held the details of two people who’d never been convicted of a crime.

One of them had his details taken when he was 11 after being arrested – but released without charge – for burglary.

To comply with the ruling the Government must now pass a law laying out how the database will change.

But this blog revealed how a row erupted last month after the Government decided to pass the law through a committee in which they can pack loyal Labour MPs, rather than through the Commons chamber – where it might face a high profile debate.

Opposition MPs told me they feared the Government was trying to “weasel around” the ruling – complying with it in word but not in spirit.

The ruling said:

The Court finds that the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention...fails to strike a fair balance…the [UK] has overstepped any acceptable margin…

…the retention at issue constitutes a disproportionate interference with the applicants' right to respect for private life and cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society.


This morning Notts MP and Police Minister Vernon Coaker told me details of all those on the database under age ten had been removed. But he added:

"The ruling didn’t say retention - or retention after arrest – was wrong. But that we should have a clear policy of whose DNA was retained and how long we should retain it for.

"[The EU Court is] not against retention, even after arrest. They know that a significant number of cases – including murders and rapes – have been solved due to the retention of details of someone who was arrested and not charged."


The Minister’s words seem diametrically opposed to the European Courts’.

But given the ruling is a complex document it’s not inconceivable that they can somehow comply while keeping the details of innocents on the database.

Even if the database is useful, to deny the House the chance to debate it is scandalous.

24 comments:

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Even if the database is useful, to deny the House the chance to debate it is scandalous.
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