Government Unveils DNA Database Plans

A series of proposals regarding how long DNA profiles can be held on the national database have been unveiled by Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

As expected, Mr Johnson proposed that all profiles of adults arrested, but not charged or convicted of any recordable offence, should be removed after six years.

Under the new proposals, profiles of 16 and 17-year-olds arrested but not charged or convicted or any serious offences would also be removed after six years, while the profiles of all other juveniles arrested but not charged or convicted of a recordable offence would be removed after three years.

The database will continue to hold the profiles of any adults convicted of a recordable offence indefinitely, as well as the profiles of all juveniles convicted of the most serious offences, such as murder, rape, manslaughter and serious assault.

The changes will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland is exempt because it was found that police already deleted most of the profiles which came under the categories laid out in the new proposals.

The proposals, which will need to go before parliament, would also give police new powers to take DNA samples from anyone convicted abroad, or convicted before the creation of the DNA database in 1995.

Commenting on the new proposals, the Home Secretary said: "It is crucial that we do everything we can to protect the public by preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice.

The DNA database plays a vital role in helping us do that, providing thousands of crime scene matches every year and helping to put many criminals behind bars where they belong.

"It is vital that we maintain the capacity of the DNA database to provide as many detections as possible by making sure the right people are on it. But we must balance this with the consideration of when other people should come off.

"I believe the proposals I am announcing today represent the most proportionate approach to DNA retention, as well as the most effective way of ensuring the database continues to help us tackle crime."

The changes follow a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last year, which stated that it was unlawful to keep the profiles of innocent people.

The proposals are strongly opposed by civil liberties groups. However, the government has claimed that the DNA profiles can help to track down offenders, citing the likes of high-profile murder cases, such as the murder of model Sally-Ann Bowman, whose killer, Mark Dixie's DNA was on the database, following an earlier arrest.

However, recent government figures have suggested that less than 1% of all recorded crime is solved by using the information in the database.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne said: "In all their proposals on DNA, ministers seem unable to distinguish between the clear concepts of innocence and guilt.

"The government is so wedded to the largest DNA database in the world that it is prepared to defy a European Court ruling to keep it that way.

"People who are innocent should be removed from the DNA database immediately. No ifs and no buts."

The UK has the world's biggest DNA database, with 5.9 million profiles included. Currently, any-one who is arrested in the UK will have a DNA swab taken shortly after their arrest.


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