High Court rejects ex-prisoner's DNA sample challenge

Lawyers argued that the request by police infringed his human rights

An ex-prisoner's legal challenge to a police force request for him to provide DNA samples has been rejected by the High Court.

Lawyers for the ex-prisoner, referred to as R, argued that the request infringed his human rights.

But Lord Justice Pitchford and Mr Justice Hickinbottom, sitting in London, dismissed his application for judicial review.

Lord Justice Pitchford said the request was both "lawful and proportionate".

R is now considering whether to appeal against today's ruling.

The test case was triggered by Operation Nutmeg, under which DNA samples have been collected from prisoners whose crimes pre-date routine collection.

The police force at the centre of the case, which also must not be be named for legal reasons, wanted R's sample as part of the push across England and Wales to collect genetic material from people jailed for serious crimes before 1994.

After that date, people convicted of serious crimes had DNA swabs routinely taken to add to the national database.

Peter Neyroud, former head of the National Policing Improvement Agency head, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Collecting this DNA is worthwhile. It helps solve serious, historic cases. Of the 6,000 samples taken so far there are around 100 matches. I'm sure the police will get something worthwhile in around 50 of these cases. We are talking about pretty serious crimes here."

Stephen Cragg QC, who led today's legal challenge, said: "The claimant in this case accepts he committed a serious crime, but not since 1999.

"Now he has been asked to provide a sample he says his human rights have been breached as he has a right to a private life."

Mr Cragg also questioned whether statistics backed up the police case. He said: "If you take DNA from everybody you will solve more crimes.

"But will this improve the detection rate? It remains a very low rate. Often DNA evidence will throw up red herrings."

Lord Justice Pitchford described in his judgment how R was convicted of manslaughter in 1984.

He was told by police last March that he was required to provide a non-intimate DNA sample to assist with the detection of unsolved crime and as a deterrent to further offending.

His DNA profile was wanted for "speculative checking" with the 158,191 crime scene profiles held in the national DNA database.

When his solicitors challenged the request, R was warned that if he did not consent he would be liable to arrest.

He was granted an injunction to prevent any arrest while he launched his High Court bid - heard in Birmingham - for damages for a breach of his human rights and a declaration that the police demand was unlawful.

His lawyers argued the DNA request infringed R's Article 8 right to respect for his private life under the European Convention on Human Rights, and was also unlawful because he had not been given an opportunity to make representations.

The lawyers conceded that the "requirement" of a sample was for the legitimate purpose of the fight against crime, but argued in R's circumstances the "purely speculative" exercise was a disproportionate interference with his private life.

The judge said R had made a witness statement describing how well into the 1990s he was a heavy drinker who frequently went out with friends and acquaintances drinking and getting involved in petty crime.

Some 13 years ago he had turned his life around, gave up drinking and started his own business. His wife was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness some five years ago and he was now her sole carer.

The judge ruled the initial demand for a sample in March was unlawful because it was made without prior authorisation by a police officer of the rank of inspector or above, contrary to the requirements of the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, as amended by the 2010 Crime and Security Act.

But a detective inspector made a valid requirement in April.

The judge said the European Court of Human Rights had recognised the importance of technological advances in the fight against crime, and the amended powers were deliberately confined to particular categories of persons.

"We are concerned with those who were convicted of serious offences before it became commonplace to take samples for the production of DNA profiles for the investigation of crime.

"No stigma attaches to the claimant in the present case by reason only of the requirement to provide a non-intimate sample.

"His conviction for serious offences are matters of public record. The claimant is but one of 11,000 people who by virtue of their criminal antecedents were liable, depending upon their individual circumstances, to provide samples for the purpose of speculative checking against the crime scene database profiles."

The judge ruled that the detective inspector "was fully justified in concluding that the public interest in the detection of crime outweighed the limited interference with the claimant's private life".

Mr Justice Hickinbottom agreed and said the requirement of a sample was "clearly appropriate and proportionate".


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower