Legal challenge begins to DNA database

A legal challenge to the DNA database which could force the Home Office to destroy thousands of records begins in Europe today.

Two men from Sheffield will go before the European court of human rights in Strasbourg and demand that their DNA and fingerprints are removed from the national DNA database.

Both men were arrested and their details were routinely taken. Neither was charged but, as is standard practice across England and Wales, their details were retained on the database.

Lawyers for the two men will argue this violates their privacy and is discriminatory. They argue the men should be treated in the same way as people who have never been arrested and not automatically cast into suspicion.

The case, brought by 45-year-old Michael Marper and a teenager known as “S”, has already been thrown out by the House of Lords.

The hearing is expected to last a day with the court expected to rule later in the year.

Police detectives argue the database is crucial in detecting crimes and DNA evidence proved pivotal in the recent convictions of Steve Wright and Mark Dixie.

Both men were arrested after DNA taken for minor offences was matched to samples taken from their victims.

Other criminals have also been arrested after DNA taken from relatives flagged up a possible match on the database.

Since 2004 everyone arrested for a recordable offence has had their DNA recorded, resulting in a database with 4.5 million profiles.

In Scotland records are usually destroyed if the suspect is not charged or convicted.

Following the conviction of Wright and Dixie, the Association of Chief Police Officers called for a debate on the need for a national database.

However, Home Office minister Tony McNulty said this would raise practical and civil liberty issues.