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Biometric Data

Volume 710: debated on Monday 18 May 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, apart from the destruction of the fingerprints and DNA samples of the applicants in the case of S and Marper v United Kingdom, as reported to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (1051st meeting (DH), 17–19 March 2009), in respect of how many other persons whose DNA and fingerprints were taken before the judgment in this case have the samples been destroyed and retained respectively, and what algorithm they are now following, in determining whether to retain or destroy samples taken after the judgment. [HL2893]

Other than the relevant fingerprints and DNA samples belonging to S and Marper, no fingerprints or DNA samples have been destroyed as a result of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of S and Marper v United Kingdom.

Article 41 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms provides that if the court finds that a violation has occurred, just satisfaction must be made to the injured party. The application of the judgment to others in similar situations must be considered in the light of the full content of the judgment. The judgment does provide for the member state to consider the scope for achieving a proper balance with the competing interests of tackling crime and preserving respect for private life.

We do acknowledge the need to implement the judgment in a timely manner but we also recognise the over-riding importance of introducing a proportionate response which has been subject to wide public debate as well as consideration by Parliament. That is why on the 7 May 2009 the Home Secretary launched the public consultation “Keeping the Right People on the DNA Database”. The consultation paper sets out the Government's proposals to implement the S and Marper judgment and the proposed framework to ensure public protection and safeguard the rights of the individual.

The responses from the consultation will assist in the forming of draft regulations to be submitted to Parliament for approval later this year. Until Parliament has amended the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 on the retention of DNA and fingerprints, the current law remains in place.

Individuals who wish to have their DNA samples and fingerprints destroyed can apply to the chief police officer of the force which took the samples and fingerprints for them to be removed under the exceptional case procedure. The decision whether or not to agree to the request for removal is a matter for the discretion of the relevant chief police officer.