Police must change photograph policy following court ruling

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in a test case in which the High Court has ruled that the police cannot keep photographs of people without criminal records or those not found guilty.

The judges agreed with the Commission’s submission that unless someone has been charged with, or convicted of, a crime it is an unjustifiable breach of their right to a private life for the police to hold on to a photograph of them.

The court did not agree with the Metropolitan Police’s argument that keeping these photographs of those not convicted was necessary for preventing crime and disorder.

The court has ordered the Metropolitan Police to revise its guidelines within months. The police force is then very likely to have to destroy its photographs of anyone who is innocent of any crime.

The ruling is in keeping with other test cases that the Commission has been involved in where the courts also decided that the police could not retain people’s DNA and fingerprint data indiscriminately or indefinitely.

John Wadham, General Counsel, Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Without the protection of our human right to a private life, the police would be able to hold onto your DNA, fingerprints, and photographs even if you’d done nothing wrong. There is no good reason why the police should hold onto information about people who have not committed any crime.

“However, we recognise the importance of retaining the identification of people who have been charged with or convicted of offences. But it is essential that the police use these powers appropriately, proportionately and fairly.”

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