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Commission Advises Assembly on DNA & Fingerprint Retention

04 Oct 2012

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission today advised the Justice Committee on the DNA/fingerprint retention provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill.
NIHRC Chief Commissioner’ Professor Michael O’Flaherty’ said:
‘The Human Rights Commission welcomes the Criminal Justice Bill and the proposed reforms of the fingerprint and DNA retention framework. We welcome this important initiative to strengthen the criminal justice system’ keeping in mind the need for it to be in full compliance with human rights. We are pleased that in the vast majority of circumstances the fingerprints and DNA profiles of persons who have not been convicted of a criminal offence will not be retained.
Through providing our advice to the Committee today we want to ensure that any systems that are put in place effectively protect the public’ are proportionate and do not unduly interfere with an individual’s right to private life.’
The Commission will recommend that there are a number of ways that this aspect of the Bill can further developed to ensure good practice and to safeguard against any future legal challenge’ including:
•Providing a mechanism for individuals who have had their DNA profile /fingerprints retained indefinitely to apply to the court for their destruction.
•The proposals of DNA/finger print retention of children should be reviewed so they fully comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and support the reintegration into society of children.
Further information:
For further information please contact Claire Martin on 02890243987.
Notes to editors
1.The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
2.View the full submission on the Criminal Justice Bill here.
3.The Bill currently requires the indefinite retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles of all adults convicted of a recordable offence’ this blanket approach means that those convicted of failing to pay a fine and those convicted of more serious offences will be treated the same –The Commission suggests that another approach could involve staggered periods of retention depending on the seriousness of the offence’ alternatively provision could be made for persons to apply either to the Court or another body for the destruction of their fingerprints and DNA profile on grounds that they no longer represent a threat to the public .
4.The Bill proposes that children convicted of a first minor offence will have their fingerprints and DNA profile retained for five years plus the length of any custodial sentence’ if they are convicted of a second offence they will have their DNA profile retained for the rest of their lives. The Commission advises that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that a child in trouble with the law should be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of their sense of dignity which promotes their reintegration. In light of the acknowledged stigmatising effect which the retention of fingerprints and DNA profile may have on a child’ the Commission considers that there is a strong case for children’ who have had their fingerprints and DNA profiles retained indefinitely’ having a right to appeal to the court or another body for destruction of their fingerprints and DNA profile on grounds that they no longer represent a threat to the public.
5.The Commission believes the suggested reforms to the fingerprint and DNA retention framework will broadly ensure compliance with the European Court judgement in S and Marper v UK (2008).
6.The Commission bases its position on the full range of internationally accepted human rights standards’ including the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the treaty obligations of the Council of Europe and United Nations systems. The relevant international treaties in this context include;
•The European Convention on Human Rights’ 1950 (‘ECHR’) [UK ratification 1951];
•The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ 1966 (‘ICCPR’)[UK ratification 1976];
•The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ 1989 (‘UNCRC’)[UK ratification 1991];
•The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (‘CEDAW) [UK ratification 1986]

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