Court rules DNA database illegal

Britain’s policy of keeping innocent people’s information on the DNA database has been ruled illegal by the European court of human rights.

There is no right to appeal the court’s judgements, meaning the Home Office must now decide how it will implement the changes.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith said she was “dissappointed” by the judgement.

The 17 senior judges said the policy violated article eight of the European convention of human rights, which guarantees “respect for private and family life”.

The judgement read: “The retention constitutes a disproportionate interference with the applicants’ right to respect for private life and cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society”.

The case was brought by two men from Sheffield who were arrested but never convicted.

Under current law police can take the fingerprints of anyone they arrest for a recordable offence. They are under no obligation to later destroy the records regardless of whether the individual is acquitted.

One of the men, Michael Marper, was arrested for harassing his partner in 2001. The case was later dropped.

The other man is a teenager known only as ‘S’. He was charged with attempted robbery but later acquitted.

Their cases were thrown out by the House of Lords.

Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willot said: “The government cannot go on treating the innocent like they are criminals. I will be writing to the home secretary to urge her to remove innocent people’s DNA from the DNA database as soon as possible and to amend the law so that only those found guilty of a crime shall have their DNA retained in the future.”

There are currently 4.5 million people on the database, making it the largest in the world. One in five of the samples come from people with no criminal record.