Police retention of DNA

I was interested to read of research carried out by the Conservatives of retention rates of innocent people from individual police forces of DNA vary considerably.

There are about 1 million innocent people who are in this position

Individuals who have been arrested but never charged face a postcode lottery over whether their DNA will be retained on a national database

FOI requests to police forces by Conservative immigration spokesman, Damian Green, reveal a huge disparity in the way records are treated. South Yorkshire is the police force most like to remove an innocent persons DNA profile whilst the neighbouring Police Authority of Nottingham refuse to remove any profiles.

Green himself succesfully requested the removal of his DNA following his arrest by the Metropolitian Police in 2008.

Staffordshire removed half the requests for the removal of DNA profile while in Cheshire the figure was under 20%

Staffordshire Police did court controversy in April 2008 when senior judges ruled that a child whose DNA was forcibly sampled when he voluntarily attended at a Staffordshire police station to help with their enquiries could challenge the decision to hold the samples permanently in a judicial review test case. The Court’s ultimate decision has implications for the estimated 100,000 other children whose DNA is held permanently by the police even though they have been neither cautioned for nor convicted of an offence.

It is more than a year since European courts ruled that the blanket and indefinite retention of DNA profiles of people in England and Wales who have been arrested, but not charged breached the human rights of individuals

Chief constables have the power to decide whether to delete an individual’s DNA record. The latest guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers advises them not to delete individual profiles until parliament agrees new guidance.

The Government now want to keep the DNA profiles of innocent people on the national database for six years, after failing to persuade MPs to support a period of up to 12 years for the most serious offences. But it is likely to take time to change the law and the results of the Tories requests show that in the meantime there are major differences in practice.