Belfast Telegraph

PSNI criticised over DNA database

Police chiefs have been accused of failing to engage with the Policing Board on the controversial policy of retaining DNA of innocent people.

The PSNI practice of holding on to DNA samples, profiles and fingerprints of individuals who have been arrested but not convicted of an offence breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

However the policy, which is also followed by forces in England and Wales, is permitted under UK law.

The Scottish approach, which sees samples destroyed if a person is acquitted or not charged - unless it relates to a serious sexual or violent assault - has been backed by the European Court of Human Rights.

Twelve months ago the Policing Board asked the PSNI to review its position on the matter, particularly in regard to young people, and report back to them in three months.

The board's annual Human Rights Report, which was published on Wednesday, expressed disappointment that the police force had failed to do so. The report, produced by the board's human rights advisor Alyson Kilpatrick, noted that the issue is being examined by the Department of Justice but stressed that the force had the ability to make its own decision.

"Whilst the Northern Ireland Assembly is actively working to introduce a new statutory framework for the retention and destruction of DNA samples, profiles and fingerprints of arrested persons, which I hope will be in keeping with the ECHR's judgment, it is disappointing that the PSNI has not engaged directly on the issue," said Ms Kilpatrick.

Instead of reporting back to the board, the PSNI issued them the following statement: "PSNI continues to work with colleagues in Great Britain and Government to ensure that our policy on DNA material, profiles and fingerprints meets ECHR standards and complies with UK legislation. This is a current and ongoing issue for all United Kingdom police services."

PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott welcomed the publication of the report. "We will examine the report in detail and look at the recommendations that the board have included," he said. "We take the area of human rights in policing very seriously and indeed it is at the heart of everything we do.

"We are fully committed to upholding the human rights of all within Northern Ireland. It is central to the delivery of a more personal, professional, protective policing service to everyone in our communities."

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