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Commission welcomes European Court of Human Rights Judgment on DNA Retention

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Commission welcomes European Court of Human Rights Judgment on DNA Retention

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission welcomes today’s decision from the European Court of Human Rights, it upheld that the indefinite retention of personal data in the Gaughran case was a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Les Allamby commented:

We welcome the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Gaughran case. The Court held that the indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention of the DNA profile, fingerprints and photograph in the circumstances of this case had failed to strike a fair balance. It held it was disproportionate given the lack of any relevant safeguards including the absence of any real review.

“The Commission has engaged extensively and productively with the Police Service of Northern Ireland towards publishing a clear and public policy on the retention of biometric material including provision for review. The policy will have to take on board the judgment as soon as possible. Our preference beyond this will be to see legislation put in place that effectively ensures the safeguards envisaged by the Court are enshrined in law”.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The case of Gaughran v the United Kingdom was lodged in 2015. View the judgment in the case of Gaughran v the UK here.

2. The ECHR press statement today outlines: “The case Gaughran v. the United Kingdom (application no. 45245/15) concerned a complaint about the indefinite retention of personal data (DNA profile, fingerprints and photograph) of a man who had a spent conviction for driving with excess alcohol in Northern Ireland. In today’s Chamber judgment in the case the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court underlined that it was not the duration of the retention of data that had been decisive, but the absence of certain safeguards. In the applicant’s case his personal data had been retained indefinitely without consideration of the seriousness of his offence, the need for indefinite retention and without any real possibility of review. Noting that the technology being used had been shown to be more sophisticated than that considered by the domestic courts in this case, particularly regarding storage and analysis of photographs, the Court considered that the retention of the applicant’s data had failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests.”

3. In January 2019 the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission settled a separate case on DNA Retention taken against the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).Read more here.

4. The NI Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland (NI).


13 Feb 2020