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United Kingdom: Large Part of UK DNA Database Must Be Destroyed

(Dec. 17, 2008) The European Court of Human Rights ruled on December 4, 2008, that the British police must destroy fingerprints and DNA profiles of individuals arrested but not convicted of any crimes that are stored in its National DNA Database. The National DNA Database, described by the Home Office as a “key police intelligence tool,” has cost over £300 million (about US$443.6 million) and resulted in 45,000 crimes being matched against records, covering 422 homicides and 645 rapes in the period 2005-2006 alone.

The European Court of Justice held that the retention of this information violates article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires respect for private and family life. This judgment overturns a judgment of the House of Lords and cannot be appealed. A deadline of March 2009 has been set for a new system to be implemented and the old records, currently over 4.5 million samples – 5.2 per cent of the population – destroyed, unless cases for specific exemptions can be made. (S and Marper v The United Kingdom, 30562/04 [2008] ECHR 1581, Dec. 4, 2008, available at; Home Office, The National DNA Database, (last visited Dec. 10, 2008).)