The police can no longer retain photographs of people who were arrested but not subsequently convicted of that offence, following a ruling by the Divisional Court.
Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker held that the existing policy did not strike ‘a fair balance between the competing public and private interests’ nor ‘meets the requirements of proportionality’ and thus was an unjustifiable breach of a person’s right to a private life to do otherwise, in ‘R (on the application of RMC & FJ) v Commissioner for Police for the Metropolis & Ors’. They dismissed the Metropolitan Police’s argument that keeping photographs of those not convicted was necessary for preventing crime and disorder, and ordered it to revise its guidelines within months.
The two applicants were an adult and a youth who was 12 at the time of his arrest. No prosecutions were in fact brought in their respective cases.
The Supreme Court held last year that the police cannot indefinitely retain fingerprints and DNA samples despite the provisions of section 64 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Courts have previously ruled that the police cannot retain DNA or fingerprint data indiscriminately or indefinitely. However the Divisional Court dismissed the claim brought by the youth to remove information on the Police National Computer about his arrest for rape: ‘A PNC record that did not include the basic history of FJ’s involvement with the police would be an incomplete and potentially misleading record.’ It would be ‘profoundly unsatisfactory’ if he were arrested for a similar allegation in the future and the prosecutors would have to consider that without knowledge of the earlier allegation and investigation.