09/01/2019

PSNI To Publish DNA Retention Policy

The PSNI is set to publish its DNA retention policy after settling a case with the NI Human Rights Commission (NIHRC).

The document will give greater clarity to the public on how they can find out if their biometric data has been held on police file, and why.

It follows a case brought about by a man who had his fingerprints and DNA kept by police.

The complainant had been arrested for assault in 2009 after he intervened to keep the peace in a neighbourhood dispute, but no charges were ever brought about against him.

The PSNI retained the data due to a 1992 conviction held by the man, when he was arrested for common assault and fined £50.

No DNA or finger prints were retained as a result of the initial case.

The police can legally hold on to data relating to convicted offenders, but the NIHRC supported the man's case because it believed the process to find out if your data is on file, and the reason why is "unnecessarily difficult".

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby stated: "The Commission acknowledges the importance of retaining DNA or fingerprints to assist with tackling crime. However, the police must strike a proportionate balance when holding on to this sensitive personal material, having fully considered the individual's right to respect for private life.
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"The Commission is pleased that in response to this case the PSNI will now develop a clear policy addressing biometric data retention in Northern Ireland. It will make clearer to the public why their DNA or fingerprints may be retained, on what basis this may continue, and how to go about seeking its destruction. We are encouraging a quick implementation of this settlement to ensure that human rights continues to be a central tenet of how policing is delivered."

The information will be published in the forthcoming year.

PSNI Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs said the retention of the man's DNA had been in accordance with the law.

"However, on consideration, we felt it was appropriate to delete the biometric data.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland are committed to delivering an effective policing service focusing on the rights of individuals and keeping people safe.

"We are committed to working with the Human Rights Commission to ensure we operate to the highest of standards in a manner that safeguards human rights, but also allows for law enforcement agencies to balance this with the detection and prevention of crime."

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the PSNI's agreement to publish the DNA retention.

The Justice spokesperson said: "Sinn Fein welcomes an intervention by the Human Rights Commission on the PSNI's position on the retention of biometric data. 

"We raised a number of rights based issues with the Commission earlier in the week, including the need for the PSNI to have a data retention policy on biometric data. 

"It must now develop a policy which is human rights compliant, transparent, open and verifiable and based on existing European Convention on Human Rights case law."



(JG/CM)

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