Northern Ireland

Teenager gets DNA retention review at Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court
Image caption A judicial review was granted by a judge at Belfast High Court

A County Down teenager has cleared the first stage in his legal battle with the police over the retention of his DNA, fingerprints and photographs.

The 18-year-old is seeking a High Court order for the destruction of samples taken after he was arrested for a suspected assault.

Even though he was released without charge, police have yet to destroy his material.

A judge has granted leave to seek a judicial review of the police position.

Senior officers have confirmed new legislation that will change the retention policy is being studied in detail.

But lawyers for the teenager claim his right to privacy is being breached and want a judge to direct all samples, profiles and photographs be destroyed.

The teenager was arrested in August last year and taken into custody in Belfast.

Samples were taken from him under normal police procedures, despite questions being raised at the time by his lawyer and father.

Following his unconditional release requests were made for assurances that all material would be deleted from the database.

The case came to court after the PSNI confirmed in a letter that it plans to retain the biometric data for the time being.

The decision followed a meeting of its biometric retention/disposal ratification committee in April.

But the Criminal Justice Act 2013, which requires the destruction of material held on those not charged or convicted of an offence, is currently being studied.

The teenager's legal team argued that the police position is unlawful and breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

Having been granted leave to apply for a judicial review, their challenge will now proceed to a full hearing in November.

Outside the court the teenager's lawyer said: "This is a significant case which demonstrates grave flaws with the PSNI's practice and procedure on the retention of suspects' photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples, particularly when criminal proceedings are not followed after an arrest.

"The judge has accepted that there is a clear arguable case in this matter."