European court makes landmark DNA sample ruling

LONDON (AP) -- Europe's top human rights court has ruled that storing DNA from people with no criminal record is a breach of their rights.

The European Court of Human Rights' landmark decision could force Britain to destroy DNA samples from nearly 1 million people. Britain has until March to either destroy the samples or make a case on why some samples should be kept.

Britain has one of the world's largest DNA databases with more than 4.5 million samples. More than 850,000 of those are from people with no criminal record. They include people who have been detained and released, people who've been acquitted of crimes and the victims of violent crimes.

Britain's Home Secretary calls the decision disappointing, saying DNA samples are "vital to the fight against crime." Police say the DNA has been important in cases where suspects have been repeatedly accused but not charged with sexual offenses, assaults or terrorism.

The existing law will remain in place while Britain reviews the decision.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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