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UK court rules police cannot retain records of innocent people

The UK High Court of Justice [official website] on Thursday ruled [Judgment, PDF] that retaining photographs and other materials of an innocent suspect should be prohibited. The two-judge panel in London's High Court held that the current policy of the Metropolitan Police Service (MET) [official website] unjustifiably interfered [Guardian report] with an individual's right to respect for his private life guaranteed under article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The decision came in the ruling of two consolidated cases of RMC and FJ whose identities were not revealed. RMC had been arrested for suspicion of assaulting a community officer who stopped her for cycling on the footpath. The Crown Prosecution Service [official website] however, never pressed charges against her even after obtaining fingerprints, DNA and photographs from her. After the incident, RMC asked the MET to destroy the materials, but it refused. The second case of FJ involved a rape allegedly committed by FJ. The same records were obtained from the 12-year-old boy, but he was released after a third party witness did not confirm an offense taken place. FJ's request to destroy the records was also denied. Lord Justice Richards, sitting at London's High Court with Justice Kenneth Parker, noted that the unlawful policy should be changed within months, not years, with the exception that retention of such materials should be allowed so long as they are "necessary and proportionate to the purpose it serves." The Equality and Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] which intervened in the test case welcomed Thursday's decision

In 2010, the UK was found to be in violation [JURIST report] of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights when they stopped two individuals under the Terrorism Act 2000 [text]. In 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] found [JURIST report] that Finland violated the same article for failing to provide a legal framework to protect the applicant's rights when his privacy was invaded by a personal ad with sexual connotations that was posted on the Internet without his knowledge.

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