Truth to Power

EU to UK: Dump the DNA

European court makes landmark ruling on DNA rights

LONDON – Europe’s top human rights court Thursday struck down a British law that allows the government to store DNA and fingerprints from people with no criminal record – a landmark decision that could force Britain to destroy nearly 1 million samples on its database.

Rights groups say the ruling could have even wider implications for the storage of other sensitive and personal data.

The case originated when British police refused to destroy DNA samples of two Britons whose criminal cases were dropped.

Seventeen judges on the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that keeping DNA samples and fingerprints was in violation of people’s right to a private life – a protection under the Human Rights Convention to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. The court also criticized Britain’s use of “blanket and indiscriminate” storage.

Britain cannot appeal the ruling. It has until March to submit plans for destroying samples or to make a case for why some should be kept. Many European countries allow for temporary storage of DNA in sex crimes or other offenses but samples are usually destroyed after the cases are closed.</em>

“Right to a private life”. What a novel concept.


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