Innocents' DNA 'should be erased'
Quote:DNA profiles of innocent people should be removed from the national database, a government-funded inquiry has said.
Control of the database should be taken from government and police and an independent body should be established to run it, the Citizens' Inquiry urged.
Javed Aslam, one of the 30 members of the public on the panel, said keeping the records would be "the first step towards a totalitarian state".
But the Home Office said the database helps to secure convictions.
The UK has the largest police DNA database in the world - with more than four million people on file.
The four-month inquiry was overseen by the Human Genetics Commission (HGC), which will now make a further report incorporating those public views, expected next year.
Under current laws, the database holds DNA records from suspects arrested in England and Wales, regardless of whether they are subsequently charged or convicted.
And innocent people who volunteer to give a DNA sample during a police inquiry also have their details kept on record.
The database also contains profiles from some people detained in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland - but the rules on storing DNA from people who live in those parts of the UK are more restrictive.
Among the study's conclusions was that guilty people who have served their time should eventually have their DNA records erased because retaining the profile "continues to criminalise them".
This is despite the fact that DNA records have been used to solve a number of "cold case" inquires in recent years.
The inquiry was conducted by 30 members of the public in two linked panels in Birmingham and Glasgow. It was funded by £50,000 of taxpayers' money.
Mr Aslam, a panel member, said: "For me, it is the first step towards a totalitarian state if we start recording these things now."
Before 2001, the police could take DNA samples during investigations, but had to destroy the records if the person was acquitted or charges were not proceeded with.
But the law was changed in 2001 to remove this requirement, and changed again in 2004 so that DNA samples could be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station.
The use of the database to solve old crimes is seen as one of the major benefits of retaining the information.
The inquiry said that even those found guilty but have served their time should eventually have their DNA records erased because retaining the profile "continues to criminalise them" and restrictions should be placed on how the data is used.
The public should also be better informed of why their DNA might be taken and the consequences, the panel concluded.
The panel's view was not unanimous - some of its members backed retaining all profiles indefinitely, even after a person's death.
Alice Maynard, from the HGC, said: "We wanted to hear the public's views on the development of the national DNA database and, in particular, whether storing the DNA profiles of victims and suspects who are not charged or are subsequently acquitted is justified by the need to fight crime."
Prof Albert Weale, chairman of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, responded to the report findings, saying: "We agree that the DNA of innocent people should not be kept by police.
"There is little evidence that removing people who have not been convicted from the DNA database will lead to serious crimes going undetected."
'Protect the innocent'
Opposition parties have criticised the use of the database. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman David Howarth said "there must be better ways of catching criminals than spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money adding innocent people to the DNA database".
For the Conservatives, shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "All serious offenders should be put on the database - and there must be safeguards to protect the innocent."
However, the Home Office said the database had revolutionised the way the police protect the public.
A spokeswoman said it welcomes an "open discussion on the issue of how the National DNA Database is used".
However, she said it provides the police on average with almost 3,500 DNA matches each month and is a "key" instrument in the fight against violent crime, burglaries and rape.
She added that, in a 12-month period between 2006 and 2007, DNA evidence had been used in police investigations into 644 rapes, 222 other sexual offences, 1,900 violent crimes and more than 8,500 domestic burglaries.
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