The European court of human rights in Strasbourg said that keeping innocent people’s DNA records on a criminal register breached article eight of the Human Rights Convention, covering the right to respect for private and family life.
Keeping DNA material from those who were “entitled to the presumption of innocence” as they had never been convicted of an offence carried “the risk of stigmatisation”, the ruling said.
Attacking the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the power to retain data, the judges said protections offered by article eight “would be unacceptably weakened if the use of modern scientific techniques in the criminal justice system were allowed at any cost and without carefully balancing the potential benefits of the extensive use of such techniques against important private-life interests”.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of course disagreed:
“DNA and fingerprinting is vital to the fight against crime, providing the police with more than 3,500 matches a month, and I am disappointed by the European court of human rights’ decision,” she said.
“The government mounted a robust defence before the court and I strongly believe DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime and bringing people to justice.”
It’s Jacqui’s old, familiar and utterly flawed ploy to suggest that all DNA should be held just because some DNA being held has been effective in crime detection. And it’s worth bearing in mind just how severely she overstates the effectiveness of her DNA database policy:
Figures show that for the past six years the number of crimes solved using DNA evidence has remained static at between 0.34 and 0.36 per cent – about one in 300 of all recorded crimes.
The number of crimes which were solved by a DNA match fell by 13 per cent to 17,614 last year as recorded crime fell overall, according to figures contained in Parliamentary answers.
Over the same period the number of people’s whose identity was on the national DNA database more than doubled in size from 1.9million people to 4.1million.
Today was a good result, but bear in mind she hasn’t committed to changing the law as a result yet.