Can the Police keep my DNA Forever?

Written 16th January 2017 by Ruth Peters

It is a question defence solicitors are routinely asked by clients. When a person is arrested the police will generally take a DNA sample, fingerprints and a photo.  As we all know though, many clients are arrested for offences which they are never even charged with but what then happens to their DNA profile and fingerprint record?

What is DNA?

A DNA sample is generally taken from a mouth swab and is an individual’s biological material containing all of their genetic information. Such sample can be analysed and a DNA profile produced. A DNA profile contains a string of 10 pairs of numbers  together with 2 letters (XX for women and XY for men). This can then be stored on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) in a similar manner as to how fingerprint records are electronically scanned onto the National Fingerprint Database (IDENT1). DNA profiles and fingerprints are collectively known as biometric data.

Do the Police routinely keep DNA profiles/Fingerprint Records?

It used to be the case that the police would indefinitely retain all fingerprint/DNA profiles obtained. However in 2008 the European Court of Human Rights  ruled in the case of S and Marper v UK that the policy of a blanket retention of DNA profiles from innocent persons was a disproportionate interference with the right to private life contained in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Following this the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 was introduced. This allows fingerprints and DNA of convicted persons to be retained indefinitely however also allows for the automatic deletion of records belonging to those arrested but not charged with any offences subject to certain exceptions. It should however be noted that this only relates to biometrica data and there will still be a Police National Computer (PNC) record however it is possible to apply to delete this. However this does not assist those who are charged by the police but ultimately found not guilty by the courts. There is also provision for the retention of biometric data  for a period of two years for those given a  Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND). In addition there is a procedure whereby the police can make an application to the Biometrics Commissioner for permission to retain the DNA and fingerprint record of those arrested but not charged for a period of three years. Specialist advice should be sought in relation to this.

What do the Police do with DNA profiles and Fingerprint Records retained?

The police routinely run speculative searches of DNA and fingerprint records obtained from crime scenes against the profiles and records which they hold on the national databases NDNAD and IDENT1. If a positive match is made then the police will conduct further enquiries often resulting in the arrest of the individual whose data has been matched.

I was found Not Guilty. Can I apply to have my DNA/Fingerprints deleted?

If you are arrested and charged by the police but then subsequently found not guilty at court, you may be able to apply for the deletion of your DNA and fingerprints and Police National Computer (PNC) records as long as you have no previous convictions. It should be noted that for some minor offences the data will be automatically deleted with no requirement for an application by yourself. You will need to be able to satisfy the necessary grounds for such application. If your application is successful, records of your fingerprints and DNA profile will be deleted from the police databases and no longer used for speculative searches. It is also possible to make an application for the deletion of your PNC records where your biometric data has automatically been deleted. Olliers Solicitors have successfully applied for the deletion of DNA/fingerprint records on behalf of numerous clients who quite understandably do not wish for the police to retain the same when they have never been convicted of a crime.


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