The UK violated the rights of a man from Northern Ireland by indefinitely holding personal data such as DNA and fingerprints after a conviction for drink-driving, Europe's top rights court ruled on Thursday.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled unanimously that there had been a violation of the right to respect private and family life set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Fergus Gaughran had been arrested for drink driving in October 2008 and later convicted, fined and banned from driving.
He has waged a long legal battle complaining that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) continues to retain on an indefinite basis the DNA profile extracted from his DNA sample, his fingerprints and photograph.
But after losing a case with the UK's Supreme Court in 2015, which backed the PSNI policy, he went to the ECHR over the retention of the data.
The ECHR ruled this "amounted to an interference with his private life", noting that the UK was relatively unusual among member states in permitting indefinite retention of DNA profiles.
It added that what was decisive was not the duration of the retention of data "but the absence of certain safeguards".
However it did not order the payment of any damages, saying: "The finding of a violation was in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage sustained."
The Strasbourg-based ECHR is part of the the Council of Europe, the continent's main rights body which has 47 member states. It is not part of the European Union.
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