The Daily Telegraph reports "Police allowed to keep DNA of innocent people"
The full legal judgement can be read online:
Judgments - Regina v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (Respondent) ex parte LS (by his mother and litigation friend JB) (FC) (Appellant)
Regina v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (Respondent) ex parte Marper (FC)(Appellant) Consolidated Appeals
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (.pdf), petty criminal convictions after a suitable period of time, have to be expunged from the public record, including the Criminal Records Bureau, for good, sensible reasons.
However, the Lords have just upheld the indefinite retention of DNA samples and profiles for innocent or unconvicted people.
How can this be just ?
The UK legal system is still lagging behind advances in biochemcial and genetic technology.
Peers in the House of Lords are still having to raise, during the Second Reading of the Human Tissue Bill in the House of Lords, the obvious problems with the wording of the Bill which refers to "non-consensual DNA analysis" clause 50 and the "use for an excepted purpose" Schedule 5, when in fact , even today there are several other techniques which can yield the same or similar genetic information, but which are not regulated by that Bill e.g. RNA analysis, karyotyping i.e. chromosome analysis or protein sequencing etc.
In rejecting the test case appeals backed by Liberty, there does not seem to be any appreciation that such scientific techniques even exist, the focus was entirely on "DNA fingerprinting" and on conventional fingerprinting.
There also seems to be a naive faith in the infallibility of DNA techniques, when in fact, due to their extreme sensitivity, the potential risk of cross contamination during the specimen collection or laboratory analysis stages is by no means negligible. Similarly, it is not unknown for there to be sloppy labelling and recording of laboratory specimens.
In the USA, contrary to the impression of competence given by the popular TV series "CSI: Las Vegas" and "CSI: Miami", there are at least two police DNA labs which have a backlog of cases under appeal due to faulty laboratory procedures, the Washington State Patrol DNA labs in Seattle and the Houston Police DNA lab in Texas, which had to be shut down in 2002.
One would have thought that the current Law Lords could remember the cases in the UK, involving Irish terrorist suspects and contaminated forensic explosives analysis equipment - DNA analysis is orders of magnitude more sensitive to contamination than this.
The idea that the police need as large a DNA database as possible, and that there is no stigma associated with being innocent and being on the DNA database is wrong.
The DNA database is linked to the Police National Computer and, presumably will be linked to IMPACT and PLX intelligence sharing systems.
Why is the indefinite retention of DNA samples and profiles of innocent people so iniquitous ?
When an employer gets an Enhanced Disclosure done by the Criminal Records Bureau, instead of a "clean sheet", the system will reveal that there is some sort of record on the PNC ("we cannot tell you more details ") due to the indefinite retention of your DNA sample or profile on the system.
This will inevitably lead some employers to reject job applicants on the basis that "there is no smoke without fire" and that they are obviously "known to the police" for something or other.
Neither Liberty nor the Law Lords seemed to consider this scenario when discussing discrimination, which they restricted to consideration of "Article 14: Prohibition Of Discrimination", of the European Convention on Human Rights.