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Thursday, 4 December 2008

It's up to Chief Constables to comply with the ECHR judgement

The DNA issue is a complex one. We must distinguish between the taking of samples and the retention of samples, and between the retention of a sample and the retention of a digitised profile obtained from the sample. Until I read the ECHR judgement in detail I can't be unequivocal over what they have and haven't decided.

However, the existing law is clear that it's at the discretion of Chief Constables whether the DNA samples taken from unconvicted persons are retained or not. This is the purpose of s.64 of PACE (as amended by s.82 of the CJPA). The essential provisions of s.64 have been quoted in the Appeal Court case linked below. However, the 'killer' clause is para 51 of the Appeal Court judgement:
Section 64 as amended does not require the Chief Constable to retain any fingerprints or samples, which have been taken. He “may” do so. However, as is the case with any other statutory discretion this discretion has to be exercised to further the purpose for which it was conferred. Here that purpose is the prevention and detection of crime. Without casting any reflection on the individuals from whom the fingerprints or samples have been taken who are not still the subject of investigation or have been acquitted the statutory purpose will normally favour retention of the fingerprints or samples unless there are special circumstances justifying the Chief Constable making an exception.
The ECHR judgement should dispel any doubts from the minds of the nation's Chief Constables as to whether retention of the fingerprints and DNA samples (and, one hopes, DNA profiles) of unconvicted persons is a proper exercise of their discretion; it is not.

Who will be the first Chief Constable to use their existing discretionary power to destroy DNA samples of unconvicted persons taken by their forces? Or are they all such pliant and unthinking tools of the Home Secretary that they will wait to be led as sheep?


MoneyBonanza said...
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Tom said...

There is a problem. The Chief Constables will tell you that they dont keep the DNA.

It is in fact kept by another non accountable body, the NPIA.

NPIA, which has taken on the roles of the Police Information Technology Organisation (Pito) and the police learning organisation Centrex, was formally launched on 1 April 2007.

The NPIA is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) sponsored and funded by the Home Office. The NPIA will have a budget of around £700m in its first year.

The NPIA website says that NPIA will support the police service by providing expertise in areas as diverse as information and communications technology, support to information and intelligence sharing, core police processes, managing change and recruiting, developing and deploying people, as well as taking over responsibility for a number of IT systems, including the Police National Computer, the National DNA Database and IDENT1, the national fingerprint and palm print system.

In other words political control of key police functions, because they report to the minister, not the ministry.

Peter Holland CBE DL is Chairman of the NPIA board, A journalist by profession, he was at Reuters for 23 years.

So, how do you now get the Chief Constables to remove people from the Database when its run by another organisation all together. (still without legal base as admitted by Lord West, until some of the current crop of legislation goes through).

JuliaM said...

Very interesting comment over at the Magistrates's Blog by poster Ayayay:

If it's good enough for them...