Hands Off Our DNA

No. 6 of #50cases.

Our DNA can reveal a huge amount about us. In fact, one small sample is enough to provide a good amount of rather specific and sensitive information about who we are. In other words, our DNA is a very private matter and should be treated as such.

This is why the “S” and Marper case, decided by the European Court of Human Rights back in 2009, is so important. One boy and one man had been arrested and charged in early 2001. S, who was only eleven years old, had been charged of attempted robbery. Marper had been accused of harassment of his partner. Both the boy and the man did eventually walk free – S as he had been acquitted, Marper as the charge against him had been dropped due to reconciliation with his other half – and both were concerned about the retention of their DNA samples.

In fact, both of them had their fingerprints and DNA samples taken in occasion of their arrest, and they were aware that, according to the UK law, material could be indeterminably detained as a digital profile in the National DNA Database. The UK Courts did not find anything wrong with this, so S and Marper ended up before the Human Rights Court, where the violation of their right to privacy was finally recognised.

Following the judgement, an intense debate on the need to strictly limit the retention of DNA and fingerprints of innocent people was sparked, ultimately leading in 2013 to the adoption of the Protection of Freedoms Act. As a result, the blanket retention of innocent people’s DNA profiles is no longer allowed, and approximately one million such profiles are to be deleted from the National Database.


Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures 

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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