GeneWatch UK today welcomed the findings of the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) Citizens' Inquiry into DNA (1). The HGC, a Government advisory body, also launched a consultation to seek the wider public's views (2).
"The Commission is to be congratulated for giving people a say about the recent massive expansion of the Database", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "Keeping people's DNA indefinitely allows the Government unprecedented powers to implement surveillance on ordinary citizens and their relatives".
The National DNA Database has expanded rapidly following two changes in the law made in 2001 and 2003. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, DNA is now taken on arrest without consent from anyone aged ten or above who is taken to a police station, and kept until after their death. This has not improved the likelihood of detecting a crime using DNA (3).
In Scotland, the law is different and most people arrested in Scotland have their DNA records deleted immediately if they are acquitted or not charged with an offence. The Scottish DNA Database nevertheless has a higher match rate with crime scene DNA (4).
DNA evidence is not foolproof and as the DNA database gets bigger, the number of false matches is expected to increase. The British Academy of Forensic Sciences has noted that, if everyone was on the DNA Database (5):
- There have, and will be, mistakes, chance matches and false matches with close relatives, made even more likely where profiles are incomplete;
- Links will be established all the time between the scene and innocent individuals, leading to false inferences;
- It would render every member of the population vulnerable to attack, by for example having their DNA planted at a crime scene.
For further information contact:
Dr Helen Wallace: 01298-24300 (office), 07903-311584 (mobile).
Notes for Editors:
(1) Available on: http://www.hgc.gov.uk/Client/library_category.asp?CategoryId=8
(2) The deadline for the consultation is 7th November. The Questions are available on: http://www.hgc.gov.uk/Client/document.asp?DocId=157&CAtegoryId=3
(3) GeneWatch UK Q&A available on:
GeneWatch UK briefing: Would 114 murderers have walked away? Available on:
(4) Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2007) The forensic use of bioinformation: ethical issues. Paragraph 4.52. Available on: http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/go/ourwork/bioinformationuse/introduction
(5) British Academy of Forensic Sciences (2007) Submission to the consultation held by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics on ‘The forensic use of bioinformation: ethical issues’. http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/fileLibrary/pdf/British_Academy_of_Forensic_Sciences.pdf