Ipswich: Victory after man’s six-year battle to have DNA records removed from police records
PUBLISHED: 12:18 17 January 2013 | UPDATED: 12:18 17 January 2013
A MAN wrongly accused of harassment has finally won his six-year battle with the police – by getting his DNA removed from the national database.
Campaign has been a struggle
NICK Pickles, director of civil liberties and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Marcus’s campaign has taken an immense struggle, something few people have been able to pursue.
“Despite the law changing several months ago, people like Marcus are still having to pursue their cases on an individual level when the police should be acting in the spirit of the law and deleting the DNA of every innocent person they currently hold.
“The lethargic approach to implementing the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act is simply not good enough.”
Under the old system, DNA could be kept indefinitely by police, even if someone had been arrested but not charged or found not guilty.
The new act significantly improves the legislation covering the operation of UK National DNA Database by the police in England and Wales. More than a million innocent people’s DNA and fingerprint records will be removed from police computers and all DNA samples will be destroyed.
Netherlands-born Marcus Lasance, who lived in Hervey Street, Ipswich, for 17 years before moving to France, received a letter from Suffolk Constabulary last week confirming his DNA samples were deleted in November 20.
The 52-year-old was arrested and charged in August 2007 for aggravated racial harassment but the Crown Prosecution dropped the case against him before it went to trial.
In December 2008 The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the way UK police forces held on to the DNA samples and fingerprints of innocent people indefinitely was unlawful.
In 2011 the UK Supreme Court agreed and in response the coalition Government announced last month that all such DNA samples will be destroyed by September this year to allow the Protection of Freedoms Act, passed in May 2012, to be brought into force.
Mr Lasance, an identity management expert who still visits Ipswich regularly, said: “I maintain our DNA contains the most private information about us. Before the passing of the Protections of Freedoms Act, crime labs used to store these millions of DNA test tubes indefinitely.
“This genetic material has already been used by several anonymous scientific studies without the consent of their donors, be they convicted criminals or innocents.
“Why is there a need for the police to hang on to the original swabbed spit samples of innocents, after generating the profile stored on police computers and doing their searches?”
A Big Brother Watch report published in June 2012 showed Suffolk Constabulary collected 17,465 DNA samples between January 2009 and November 2011 – and had deleted just four.
In contrast, Cambridgeshire Constabulary had collected 13,425 and deleted 1,687.
Suffolk Police said national legislation surrounding the use and retention of DNA evidence is regularly reviewed and results in the issuing of strict guidelines for all police forces.
A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “The Protection of the Freedoms Act, which received Royal Assent in 2012, made changes to procedures surrounding DNA retention.
“There is much national work taking place to implement this Act and the relevant section about DNA retention is yet to be given a formal commencement date by Government. Suffolk Constabulary is adhering to the guidelines issued nationally by the Association of Chief Police Officers and adjusting procedures accordingly.
“Along with all police forces, Suffolk Constabulary will continue to take DNA samples and retain profiles appropriately, in accordance with the law, so that it can identify criminals and keep the public safe.”