A BELFAST solicitor is taking legal action against the RUC’s chief constable after claims that she was forcibly removed from a police station room where she was advising a client not to subject himself to a controversial DNA swab test.
The woman, who does not want to be named at present, said an RUC sergeant had “pushed” her from the custody suite at Grosvenor Road police station close to Belfast city centre, as she was protesting about her client being forced to take the DNA test. She has lodged a formal complaint about the incident which took place around 4am on Wednesday and later today will issue a high court writ against RUC chief Ronnie Flanagan claiming she was subjected to “assault, battery and trespass of the person”. Police last night denied the woman had been forcibly removed but said she had been asked to leave the room “for her own safety”. The incident involving the solicitor, who is employed by Belfast law firm Madden and Finucane, is the most public signal so far of the tensions caused by the different interpretations of recent legislation providing for the use of DNA tests, generally in the form of swabs taken from a suspect’s mouth. Many lawyers in the north feel the legislation only permits the RUC to take swabs if it is believed they will link a suspect to a particular crime. However, at least one Belfast lawyer has claimed in a sworn affidavit that RUC officers informed him the swabs are also being taken for intelligence-gathering purposes with the information obtained being stored in a data bank for future reference. A spokesman for Madden and Finucane said civil liberties organisations had been informed of the incident at Grosvenor station. “I am extremely concerned at this development where you have a solicitor simply trying to protect her client’s interests and to be subjected to this is simply appalling,” the spokesman said. A police spokeswoman, however, denied suggestions that the solicitor had been removed from the room against her will. “The solicitor in question was asked to leave a small room while her client was having a DNA swab taken. This decision was taken in the interests of her personal safety and she was able to consult with her client immediately before and afterwards. At no stage was she removed from the custody suite,” the spokeswoman said. The DNA issue looks certain to come before the European courts unless an agreement is reached between the RUC and the legal community on the interpretation of the law regarding use of information obtained from the tests. A test case involving a man who was recently forced to give swabs against his will is due before the high court in the new year.