Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Met photos breached human rights

Two judges have ruled it is 'unlawful' for police to retain custody photographs of suspects who were not charged

A police decision to retain photographs of two crime suspects who were never charged has been declared a breach of human rights in a landmark High Court ruling.

Two judges ruled as "unlawful" the Metropolitan Police policy on custody photographs, which is based on the Home Secretary's code of practice on the management of police information and related guidance.

The ruling was won by two applicants referred to as RMC and FJ, who must not be identified for legal reasons.

RMC is a 60-year-woman from Chelsea, who five years ago was arrested on suspicion of assault and had DNA samples, fingerprints and photographs taken.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge her with assaulting a community support officer who had stopped her riding a cycle on a footpath, but the Metropolitan Police refused the "distressed" woman's request to destroy her records.

In the second case, FJ, a 12-year-old boy from Peckham, was arrested on suspicion of rape of his second cousin after voluntarily attending a police station for questioning in April 2009. No charges were brought after a third party witness did not confirm an offence had taken place.

During the arrest DNA was taken from FJ, now 15, along with fingerprints and photographs. The Met refused a request to destroy the material and also retained a record of his arrest and other information on the police national computer (PNC).

On Friday, Lord Justice Richards, sitting at London's High Court with Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, said: "I am not satisfied that the existing (police) policy strikes a fair balance between the competing public and private interests and meets the requirements of proportionality. In my judgment, therefore, the retention of the claimants' photographs in application of the existing policy amounts to an unjustified interference with their right to respect for their private life and is in breach of Article 8 (of the human rights convention).

But the judges ruled police retention of FJ's PNC record was justified and only a "small and plainly proportionate" interference with his Article 8 rights.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are urgently examining the implications of today's ruling and its potential impact on police operations. This will guide what further action may be appropriate."