Northern Ireland

Drink driver loses case against PSNI over DNA profile retention

A drink driver who went to the UK's highest court to stop police keeping his DNA profile and other identity data indefinitely has lost his case.

Fergus Gaughran was arrested for drink driving in Northern Ireland in October 2008 and pleaded guilty within weeks.

He later challenged the Police Service of Northern Ireland's policy of keeping convicted people's data indefinitely.

However, the Supreme Court dismissed Gaughran's appeal, ruling that the PSNI's policy was "proportionate".

'Human rights'

After his arrest for suspected drink driving near Camlough, County Armagh, PSNI officers obtained his fingerprints, photograph and a DNA sample from a mouth swab.

He admitted the offence of driving with excess alcohol in November 2008. He was fined £50 and banned from driving for a year.

Gaughran's long-running legal action against the PSNI started in Belfast in 2009, when he asked for a judicial review of their policy of retaining identity data for an indefinite period.

A conviction for driving with excess alcohol is spent after five years.

His case was dismissed at the High Court in Belfast in 2012, but Gaughran lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court in London.

His lawyers argued that the PSNI's indefinite retention of his data breached his right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Public benefit

In previous cases, people who were acquitted of an offence have successfully challenged the lawfulness of keeping their data indefinitely.

But five Supreme Court judges heard the appeal, and they ruled by a majority of four to one that the PSNI's policy of retaining convicts' DNA profiles for an indefinite period was "proportionate".

Outlining the reasons for their decision, the judges ruled: "The potential benefit to the public of retaining the DNA profiles of those who are convicted is considerable and outweighs the interference with the right of the individual.

"The retention may even benefit the individual by establishing that they did not commit an offence."