S. and Marper v. the UK 17 – 0 for civil liberties and common sense

The European Court of Human Rights have today in a unanimous 17 – 0 decision decided that the retention of DNA profiles and tissue samples from people who have been arrested, but not charged with or convicted of any crime is a breach of their right to respect for private life (Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights).

The court rightly distinguishes between whether 1) samples can be taken as part of an investigation and whether 2) samples can be retained if the investigation shows that no crime has been committed by the person from whom the sample was taken.

Most of the cases cited as proof of the importance of having a large forensic DNA database does not involve linking new crime scene samples to old DNA profiles from innocent people, but linking new DNA samples from those arrested to old crimes.

The judgement is thus eminently sensible and broadly in the line with the 2007 report on these issues from the Nuffield Council of Bioethics (DECLARATION OF INTEREST – I was member of the working party drafting that report).