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  • Namita Pawa

Biometric Data: Fingerprints and DNA

Updated: Mar 8

Why are my fingerprints and DNA taken by the police?

Fingerprints are unique to each individual and they therefore provide a reliable way to identify suspects and link them to past crimes. DNA samples provide valuable evidence, helping solve cases by matching DNA found at crime scenes with potential suspects or linking suspects to other criminal activities.

The fingerprint and DNA data is gathered and retained on a database and can be checked against samples obtained from a crime scene.

The information below sets out the scenarios in which your data can be retained and when an application can be made for it to be removed.

What allows the police to take and retain my fingerprints and DNA?

When an individual is arrested, they are taken to a police station in the custody suite as part of the booking in process, fingerprints and DNA is collected. Collectively, this is known as ‘biometric data’.

The Protection of Freedom Act 2012 allows the police to retain your biometric information if you are convicted of an offence, including an out of court disposal, for example, a caution or Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND).

Biometric data will be kept on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) and the National Fingerprint Database (IDENT1). A record of your arrest and what happens thereafter will also be kept on the Police National Computer (PNC). The legislation also explains under which circumstances biometric data will be automatically deleted from these databases.

I was arrested but not charged by the police. Do they keep my data?

In circumstances where after the initial arrest and investigation a decision is taken to take no further action, if you have no previous convictions, cautions or warnings, your biometric data will be automatically removed from the PNC.

I accepted a police caution, can my biometric data be removed?

If you are offered a police caution or are charged and found guilty, there is no facility for your biometric data to be removed from the police database.

There are some circumstances where representations can be made to the chief constable of the relevant police force to have your biometric data removed and we can advise you about the likelihood of success in your particular circumstances. If you find yourself needing such advice, then please contact us on the link below, and speak to one of the team.

The eligibility criteria and specific steps are amended over time, so it is recommended to check the official UK government website or contact one of our team who can provide you what the current criteria on the removal process.

I was charged but found not guilty. Can the police still keep my biometric data?

After the investigation, if you are charged with an offence and found not guilty, or the case concludes with you being discharged from the case, your biometric data may be removed automatically, depending on whether the offence was a minor offence and as long as you have no previous convictions. For more serious allegations, your data will be retained for three years. If you wish to apply for early removal, you will need to satisfy the necessary criteria and if successful, your biometric data will be deleted altogether.

It is important to know that if you are charged, regardless of the outcome, a record of your arrest will remain on the PNC. An application can be made for removal of this information under the Record Deletion Process.

I was given a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND). Can I apply to have my DNA removed?

If you were given a PND then this is classed as a conviction and so your biometric information would ordinarily be retained for a period of two years. However, it is possible to make an early application for your biometric data to be removed, if you fit the necessary grounds for making such an application.

I attended a voluntary interview, why have I been asked to go in and give my fingerprints and DNA?

For those that are sent a postal requisition to attend court to answer charges, they may not have been arrested and therefore did not go through the custody process of having their fingerprints and DNA collected as well as their photograph taken. Some individuals are invited into the police station for a voluntary interview and therefore when a decision is made to charge them, the Protection of Freedom Act 2012 allows for biometric data to be obtained.

Legal disclaimer: Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is accurate at the date of publication but please note that the law is ever changing and evolving. If you require advice in relation to any matter raised in this article please contact a member of the team.


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