Northern Ireland news

Police promise more clarity on retention of fingerprints and DNA after legal action

The Human Rights Commission recently settled its legal action against the police
Michael McHugh

THE PSNI have agreed to provide greater public clarity around their retention of DNA and fingerprint data.

The Human Rights Commission recently settled its legal action against the police. The force has promised to produce a formal public policy on the holding of biometric information within a year.

Officers can legally keep the data of convicted offenders. The commission believed finding out if that had been done, and why, was "unnecessarily difficult".

Chief commissioner Les Allamby said: "The commission is pleased that in response to this case the PSNI will now develop a clear policy addressing biometric data retention in Northern Ireland.

"It will make clearer to the public why their DNA or fingerprints may be retained, on what basis this may continue, and how to go about seeking its destruction.

"We are encouraging a quick implementation of this settlement to ensure that human rights continues to be a central tenet of how policing is delivered."

In December 2017 the commission issued judicial review proceedings against the PSNI on behalf of an anonymous individual.

That person had raised the refusal of the police to erase fingerprints and DNA, which were retained following an arrest but release without charge in 2009.

The material was held because the individual had been previously convicted of an unrelated common assault.

The new public policy will take into account human rights and will provide guidance to the public on how they can find out if their DNA or fingerprints have been retained, why this is so, and to challenge the decision if necessary, the commission added.

Mr Allamby said: "The commission acknowledges the importance of retaining DNA or fingerprints to assist with tackling crime.

"However, the police must strike a proportionate balance when holding on to this sensitive personal material, having fully considered the individual's right to respect for private life."

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