Call to destroy DNA profiles of people not charged or acquitted

 

DNA PROFILES should be destroyed as soon as reasonably possible, where a person is not being charged or is acquitted, according to the Irish Human Rights Commission.

The commission was making a presentation yesterday to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the proposed DNA database bill.

Roger Sweetman SC, a member of the commission, said the proposed bill allowed for the collection of “volunteer” samples when a particular offence was being investigated. The Minister for Justice indicated it might be useful to enter these into the database for the purpose of speculatively searching the crime scene index.

The commission was concerned this section had the potential to be applied broadly and allowed for taking “volunteer” samples when there was no causal connection between it and the specific investigation.

It was also concerned about the provision that the volunteer could be asked to allow the sample to be retained when they were not suspected or convicted of any criminal offence.

The Bill proposed the default destruction period for bodily samples should be three years; the period for DNA profiles should be 10 years for adults and five for children and “protected persons”, who were deemed vulnerable.

He said the commission recommended DNA profiles be destroyed and removed as soon as reasonably possible where a person was not going to be prosecuted or had been acquitted.

Mr Sweetman said the taking of bodily samples should be video recorded in all circumstances, unless the person objected, to protect the person and the garda taking the sample from any future accusations concerning the integrity of the process.

Data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes also stressed samples should be destroyed if a person was acquitted.

He urged the committee to consider whether the significant advance represented by the Bill should be prejudiced by unnecessarily retaining the DNA of individuals who were innocent in the eyes of the law.

Instead, in the limited cases where it was necessary, the Garda commissioner should obtain a court order for retention of individuals’ DNA.