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GeneWatch PR: Statement on One Show DNA case (12th January 2011)

Proposals to delete the DNA profiles of innocent people from the DNA database need not affect cases such as the one reported in yesterday's One Show, GeneWatch said today.

GeneWatch advocates giving greater priority to analysing DNA evidence from the scenes of serious crimes including past cold cases such as the one described.

"The previous Government spent policing money on keeping innocent people's DNA instead of analysing cold case crime scene DNA as quickly as they should", said GeneWatch's Director Dr Helen Wallace. "With the right priorities this case may even have been solved sooner than it was. Members of the public should not be concerned that the new Freedom Bill will let murderers and rapist off the hook. In reality, changing police priorities would be good for victims as well as people's rights".

Adding DNA profiles from old 'cold case' crime scenes to the DNA database sooner rather than later would mean they are available as soon as possible to match the DNA of any individual who is subsequently added to the database during an investigation as well as DNA profiles stored from past convicted criminals. If procedures were changed to give these unsolved cold cases more priority, partial matches with a close relative could also be made when an individual is added to the database (known as 'familial searching'), rather than keeping their record and waiting until much later before this test is done. This would remove any need to retain DNA profiles and police records from persons not convicted of a crime. This means that innocent people's DNA profiles can be deleted as the Coalition Government proposes, whilst at the same time victims can still receive the justice that they need.

Dr Wallace stressed that the use of 'familial searching' (looking for partial matches with the DNA of a relative) should be strictly controlled and limited to very serious unsolved cases, to avoid revealing private family information such as non-paternity.

The police spokesman in the programme also wrongly implied that the benefits of using DNA and of having a DNA database would be thrown away by the forthcoming proposals in the Freedom Bill. In reality, many crimes solved using DNA do not require the use of the DNA database at all, and keeping innocent people's DNA records has not helped to solve more crimes. The DNA database has more than doubled in size without any increase in the number of crimes detected using DNA (1).

Police records linked to records on the DNA database are now also kept indefinitely to ensure that an individual can be tracked if a DNA match is made. These records can be used to refuse someone a visa or a job even if they have merely been arrested (2).

For further information contact:

Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office); 07903-311584 (mobile).

Notes for Editors

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