Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Teen clears first stage in legal battle with PSNI over held DNA and fingerprints

The Co Down teenager was released without charge, but police have yet to destroy his DNA, fingerprints and photographs
The Co Down teenager was released without charge, but police have yet to destroy his DNA, fingerprints and photographs

A Co Down teenager today cleared the first stage in his legal battle with the PSNI over the retention of his DNA, fingerprints and photographs.

The 18-year-old, who cannot be identified, is seeking a High Court order for the destruction of samples taken after he was arrested for a suspected assault.

Even though he was released without charge, police have yet to destroy his material.

Senior officers have confirmed new legislation which will change the retention policy is being studied in detail.

But lawyers for the teenager claim his right to privacy is being breached and want a judge to direct all samples, profiles and photographs be binned.

Following submissions Mr Justice Treacy granted leave to seek a judicial review of the police position.

The teenager was arrested in August last year and brought into custody in Belfast.

Samples were taken from him under normal police procedures, despite questions being raised at the time by his lawyer and father.

Following his unconditional release requests were made for assurances that all material would be deleted from the database.

The case came to court after the PSNI confirmed in a letter that it plans to retain the biometric data for the time being.

The decision followed a meeting of its Biometric Retention/Disposal Ratification Committee in April.

But the Criminal Justice Act 2013, which requires the destruction of material held on those not charged or convicted of an offence, is currently being studied.

The teenager's legal team argued that the police position is unlawful and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

Having been granted leave to apply for a judicial review, their challenge will now proceed to a full hearing in November.

Outside the court the teenager's lawyer, Ciaran Mulholland of Joe Mullholland Solicitors, claimed: "This is a significant case which demonstrates grave flaws with the PSNI's practice and procedure on the retention of suspects' photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples, particularly when criminal proceedings are not followed after an arrest.

"The judge has accepted that there is a clear arguable case in this matter."

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