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Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

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What you need to know if you are arrested

New legislation is now in place to ensure that fingerprint records, DNA samples and DNA profiles, known as ‘biometric data’, are no longer automatically kept for an indefinite period by police forces in England and Wales.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 requires forces to delete all such data after a set period of time if a person arrested for an alleged crime is not convicted of that offence.

If you are arrested for an offence and a DNA sample is taken while you are in custody or in the course of the investigation, that DNA sample will now usually be deleted within six months. DNA Samples may be kept for longer periods if they are required as evidence in court proceedings.

If you are arrested for an alleged minor offence but not charged, the DNA profile that is produced from the DNA sample and the fingerprint scan may be held until the conclusion of the investigation of the offence. The DNA profile and fingerprints will also be searched against the national DNA and fingerprint databases.

Adults (18 years or over)

If you are convicted of any offence, minor or qualifying, your DNA profile and fingerprint records may be retained indefinitely. Under the Protection of Freedoms Act, convictions include cautions, reprimands and warnings.

If you are charged with, but not convicted of, any qualifying offence your DNA profile and fingerprints can be retained for three years. The Police may apply to a district judge to retain the data for a further two years.

If you receive a penalty notice for disorder your DNA profile and fingerprints can be held for two years.

If you are arrested for, but not charged with, a qualifying offence your DNA profile and fingerprints can only be retained with the authorisation of the Biometrics Commissioner, who has been appointed to ensure compliance with the Protection of Freedoms Act.

If the Biometrics Commissioner approves an application to retain biometric data, that data may be held for three years from the date it was taken. The police may apply to a district judge to retain the data for a further two years. Qualifying offences include sexual or violent offences or terrorism. 

Full list of qualifying offences

Minors (persons under 18 years)

If you are convicted of a qualifying offence, your DNA profile and fingerprint records may be retained indefinitely.

If you are convicted of a minor offence (any recordable offence other than a qualifying offence) for the first time and you have been given a custodial sentence of more than five years, your DNA profile and fingerprints can be held indefinitely.

If you are convicted of a minor offence for the first time and you have been given a custodial sentence of less than five years, your data can be held for five years plus the length of your prison sentence.

If you are convicted of a minor offence for a second time while your DNA profile and fingerprints are being held, your data can be held indefinitely.

If you are charged with, but not convicted of, a qualifying offence your DNA profile and fingerprints can be held for three years. Police may apply to a district judge to retain the data for a further two years.

If you receive a penalty notice for disorder your DNA profile and fingerprints can be held for two years.

If you are arrested for, but not charged with, a qualifying offence your DNA profile and fingerprints can only be retained with the authorisation of the Biometrics Commissioner. If the Biometrics Commissioner approves an application to retain biometric data, that data may be held for three years from the date it was taken. The police may apply to a district judge to retain the data for a further two years.

More information about the role of the Biometrics Commissioner