When someone is found not guilty in court, it’s natural to wonder what happens to the fingerprints, DNA material, and other records related to the case. In England and Wales, there are specific rules and processes in place to handle this situation.
Deletion of Fingerprint and DNA Material: Fingerprint and DNA material are stored in two important databases: the National DNA Database (NDNAD) and the National Criminal Fingerprint Database, also known as IDENT1. According to the current process, this data is automatically deleted from these databases three years after the case is updated on the Police National Computer (PNC) with the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict. This deletion happens automatically without any need for a request.
Early Deletion: If you have a good reason to do so, you can apply for an early deletion of your fingerprints and DNA material through the Record Deletion Process. If a Chief Officer agrees with your grounds for deletion, your information may be removed from the databases before the three-year mark. In reality this would be rare for a case that made it to court.
National Records Marker: At the three year point (or before if successful in an early deletion request) the associated PNC record will also drop off. However, just as with an NFA there will be a marker that indicates that a local police force holds information about you.
Custody Records: If you are found not guilty, you could try and ask for the custody images (mugshots) be deleted from your custody record. I can’t see anything that can make them comply and I don’t think in any case that they would prior to the 3 year point detailed above. Even if they do remove the images, the custody record itself will not be deleted.
Local Records and Case File: During an investigation, a file is created that contains all the details related to your case. This includes statements, interviews, digital evidence, custody records, and more. The police will not delete this file as it is considered their work product.
Reopening the Case: Although rare, there are exceptional circumstances in which a case can be reopened in England and Wales since 2003. In such situations, the local investigation file would be used. HOWEVER, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS RARE. IT HAS HAPPENED JUST A FEW TIMES SINCE 2003. It is only mentioned because the possibility technically exists for some of the most serious offences.
Access to the File: Despite the police retaining the case file, you have the right to request access to it through a subject access request. Be aware that some information may be redacted to protect the privacy of others or maintain ongoing investigations