The ruling follows appeals brought by two men, referred to as GC and C, against judgments which had seen their DNA profiles kept on file indefinitely, even though GC had been released without charge following his sampling and C, facing allegations of rape, had been acquitted.
Law enforcement in the United Kingdom routinely collects DNA data on people they arrest, and in the vast majority of cases this data is kept on file indefinitely even if no charges or convictions ensue.
In 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against British police keeping DNA data on file indefinitely if there are no charges or convictions. However, current guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) states that chief constables have discretion to keep DNA data on file - even in the case of innocent persons requesting to have it deleted - unless "exceptional circumstances" exist. It is this ACPO guidance which the Supreme Court has now deemed unlawful in a majority ruling, with seven judges agreeing and two opposing. However the judges have not yet ordered deletion of GC and C"s data, nor ordered ACPO to change the offending document.