S. and Marper v. the United Kingdom
European Court of Human Rights
4 December 2008
The applicants had been charged with criminal offences, but at the end of the proceedings were not found guilty. During the criminal proceedings the fingerprints and DNA samples were collected from them and stored in the police database. Afterwards the applicants asked the police to destroy the samples, but the police refused to do so, as the law allowed to keep the samples for an unlimited period of time.
The applicants complained that the storage of the samples of their fingerprints and DNA violated their right to private life.
The Court ruled that the storage of the samples of the applicants’ fingerprints and DNA was not necessary and proportionate. Therefore the applicants’ right to private life had been violated.
The Court noted that fingerprints and DNA samples contains private and even sensitive information about an individual, thus their storage also concerns individual’s right to private life.
The Court found that:
- The law allowing the police to store information had a legitimate aim – to assist in the identification of future offenders.
- However, the law was formulated too broadly.
- Applicants who were not convicted of any criminal offence were treated the same way as persons who were found guilty of crimes in respect of their personal data storage.
- Applicants had not given consent to the storage of their data.
- It was almost impossible for the applicants to require removal of the information on them from the police database.
- There was no control over the information kept in the database.