ACPO Guidelines for DNA Retention

On 24th April 2006 the Association of Chief Police Offices (ACPO) produced a memo in relation to the retention of DNA and similar records.

ACPO recognized that people would be requesting that their DNA, fingerprint and PNC records destroyed if they were innocent of any crime; ACPO stated that There is an increase in the number of requests being made to Chief Constables for the removal of DNA, fingerprints and PNC. This has been brought about by changes to PACE and a recent decision made in the Royal Courts of Justice by the Information Tribunal affecting the retention of criminal conviction history on PNC” and added Chief Constable are able to request the deletion of fingerprint, PNC, and DNA records of data they “own”, i.e data which their force processed.

ACPO even went as far as to define the occasions when DNA and fingerprints would be removed. The memo stated that:

Exceptional cases will, by definition, be rare. They might include cases where the original arrest or sampling was found to be unlawful. Additionally, where it is established beyond doubt that no offence existed, that might, having regard to all the circumstances, be viewed as an exceptional circumstance. For example where a dead body is found in a multi-occupancy dwelling and the cause of death is not immediately obvious. All the occupants are arrested on suspicion of murder pending the outcome of a post mortem. All arrested persons are detained at the local police station and samples taken. It later transpires that the deceased person died of natural causes. No offence therefore exists, and all persons are released from custody.

This memo comes after the 2005 ACPO Guidelines for Good Practice on DNA handling, where they simply state:

It is not necessary to destroy the DNA profile if an individual is arrested and subsequently cleared of the offence, or a decision is made not to prosecute (s.64, PACE, 1984). Therefore, profiles of DNA samples taken from individuals who are not prosecuted, released without charge, against whom proceedings are discontinued or who are acquitted will remain on the NDNAD and will be the subject of continuing searches. DNA samples are retained in cold storage at less than -15 degrees C by the laboratory that analysed them. They are used mainly for upgrading the profile with the most current profiling system and for quality assurance purposes.

In these guidelines ACPO make no mention, either way, about the ethics of deleting DNA of an innocent individual, probably something not deemed relevant at the time. Therefore surely the 2006 memo should take precedence?And, if deletion ‘where appropriate’ is the ACPO stated policy why did the UK government fight the case of Marper and S in the ECHR and lose!

If the police had applied a common sense approach, they would have not had the test case in ECHR and therefore lost the powers they claim to need.

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