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Freedom of Information


No, in certain circumstances the police can retain fingerprints / DNA of suspects who are arrested even if they are subsequently cleared of the offence, or a decision is made not to prosecute. The fingerprints / DNA must be used for the prevention or detection of crime, the investigation of any offence or the conduct of a prosecution.

They must however be destroyed in accordance with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 as soon as is reasonably practicable after their use unless certain conditions apply. Please see the link in Related Information.

The only time fingerprints / DNA must be destroyed immediately is if they were taken unlawfully or from a person in connection with that person's unlawful arrest, or in the case of mistaken identity.

Whether fingerprints / DNA can be retained and how long for will depend on the seriousness of the offence, any previous convictions and whether or not you were charged (see Related Information for a useful table produced by the National Police Chiefs' Council, detailing retention periods). Records held on the Police National Computer (PNC) are to be retained until a person is deemed to have reached 100 years of age.

In certain circumstances a person may apply to have their fingerprints / DNA and associated PNC record removed earlier than the period specified, if they can evidence grounds that are agreed by a Chief Officer. The application form along with guidance on when and how an application can be made can be found on the ACRO Criminal Records Office website (see Related Information).

The Chief Officer has discretion as to whether these are removed but you cannot insist on their destruction and each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


The Freedom of Information Act 2000 creates a public 'right of access' to information that is held by public authorities. Police forces are public authorities. Each force has Freedom of Information Officers who are responsible for ensuring that the force as a public authority complies with two obligations, being:

1 To publish certain information about their activities; and
2 To answer requests from members of the public for information

Most forces also have a freedom of information webpage on their site, which gives details of information that is already publicly available, such as a Crime Map, Home Office Crime Statistics, etc and a record of all requests previously disclosed.

The Act covers all recorded information held by a public authority, for example official documents, drafts, emails, notes, etc.

To make a freedom of information to your local police force, use the online form, email or telephone. The police will respond to your request as soon as practicable, and in any case within 20 working days.

Although the Freedom of Information Act permits disclosure of information, in certain circumstances, exemptions can apply. For example, under a Freedom of Information request, the police will not release information that contains personal details. If you want to make a request for information containing your own personal data, see Q87: How can I find out what information the police hold on their systems about me? I want to check it is correct.

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