Home Office DNA consultation
The Government has announced the results of its consultation into whose DNA should be kept on the databases. It proposes to allow the retention of about a million innocent people's DNA records for six years after their arrest, and to keep the DNA records of terrorist suspects indefinitely.The consultation document, a summary of responses, revised evidence to support the proposals and the Government's new plans are all now available on the Home Office's consultation website. The consultation followed the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Marper case.
The proposals in the consultation had been widely criticised for allowing the Government to keep the DNA profiles and fingerprints of innocent people for six to twelve years after they were arrested. The new proposals include a single time limit of six years for adults who have not been charged, convicted or cautioned for any offence, with shorter retention times for children in some cases. Under these plans, people who are rearrested and found innocent again would have to wait another six years before their database records are deleted.
GeneWatch UK thinks these retention times are far too long, both for innocent people and for people with convictions or cautions for minor offences. The calculations on which the Home Office bases its proposals also contain multiple flaws. The new evidence provided corrects only some of the mistakes, because it does not address the limited role of the DNA database in solving crimes.
The Committee of Ministers, which oversees implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, has already concluded that the original proposals do not conform to the legal requirement of proportionality. The revised version is unlikely to alter this view.
You can read some of the responses to the consultation here, together with some articles criticising both the science on which the Home Office has based its proposals, and their legality.
- Scientists have strongly criticised the evidence on which the Government has based its proposals (see, for example: Bad Science, and Straight Statistics). The Jill Dando Institute, which conducted part of the research, later distanced itself from the findings which it stated were "unfinished" (a new, finished version of this evidence, has now been provided).
- Lawyers have strongly criticised the Government's interpretation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, and concluded that the Home Office's proposals are unlawful (see, for example: The Law Society and Michael Beloff QC's legal opinion).
- Children's organisations have criticised the proposals for not adequately protecting children's rights (see: the NSPCC and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice).
- Black community groups and organisations representing ethnic minorities have also strongly criticised the plans (see, for example: Black Mental Health UK, the Runnymede Trust, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission).
More positively, the Home Office has also proposed that all DNA samples will be destroyed once the computerised DNA profiles have been obtained and checked. This is a welcome and important safeguard to prevent misuse. The samples contain sensitive genetic information, but keeping them is not necessary for identification purposes.
Another welcome proposal in the consultation is that in future DNA profiles from volunteers will not be stored on the database and will be destroyed when they are no longer needed.
- GeneWatch briefing and response
- GeneWatch PR: Response to Government DNA proposals 11th November 2009
- Erratum to DNA consultation submission 11th August 2009
- GeneWatch UK and Open Rights Group: submission to the Home Office's DNA consultation 10th August 2009
- GeneWatch UK: Annex to submission to the Home Office's DNA consultation 10th August 2009
- GeneWatch briefing: Responding to the Home Office's DNA consultation 10th July 2009
- Press articles and external links
- The Times: Terror suspects excluded from plans to wipe DNA off national database (11th November 2009)
- The Guardian: Police to continue to hold DNA of innocent people (11th November 2009)
- The Telegraph: DNA of protestors could be held for life (11th November 2009)
Council of Europe Committee of Ministers: 1065th meeting, 15-16 September 2009
Concludes that the Home Office proposal for the automatic destruction of DNA samples "appears to reflect the terms of the judgment", but that its proposals to retain DNA profiles after arrest do not conform to the requirement for proportionality or meet the requirements of the judgment with respect to children. The Committee also criticises the lack of an independent review of the justification of the retention of individuals' DNA profiles, and the poor quality of the scientific evidence provided by the Home Office.
- The Daily Mail: DNA of innocents will be kept on database for six years (29th October 2009)
- The Guardian: Home Office climbs down over keeping DNA records of innocent (19th October 2009)
- BBC Online: DNA storage proposal 'incomplete' (25th September 2009)
- Information Commissioner's Response to the Home Office Consultation
- Kingsley Napley LLP: Response to the Home Office Consultation
- Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission: Response to Home Office DNA consultation (2009)
- Daily Mail: 300 children a day added to DNA database (12th August 2009)
- Law Society response to the DNA consultation
- Committee on the Administration of Justice (Northern Ireland): Submission to the Home Office DNA consultation (2009)
- Runnymede Trust: Response to the DNA consultation
- David Mery: Response to DNA consultation
- Foundation for Information Policy Research: Submission to the DNA consultation
- Liberty: submission to the DNA consultation
- HGC response to DNA database consultation
- Police Foundation: Submission to the DNA consultation
- Children's Rights Alliance for England: Government plans for child DNA retention breach human rights, says youth justice committee
- The Observer: 'Racist bias' blamed for disparity in police DNA database (9th August 2009)
- The Guardian: Police told to ignore human rights ruling over database (7th August 2009)
- NSPCC response to DNA database consultation
- The Telegraph: Equality watchdog warns DNA plans break law (7th August 2009)
- Equality and Human Rights Commission says Government DNA database proposals will still break law (7th August 2009)
Equality and Human Rights Commission: legal advice (7th August 2009)
Advice from Michael Beloff QC that the Home Office's proposals are likely to breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Black Mental Health UK: Response to DNA consultation (7th August 2009) 7th August 2009
- 11 Million (UK Children's Commissioners): Response to DNA consultation
- Justice: Submission to the Home Office consultation
- The Guardian: DNA database plans based on 'flawed science' (20th July 2009)
Bad Science: Is this a joke? (18th July 2009)
Ben Goldacre concludes: "...if research of this callibre is what guides our policy on huge intrusions into the personal privacy of millions of innocent people, then they might as well be channeling spirits".
New Law Journal: Keeping the DNA link (17th July 2009)
Criminologists describe the Home Office's conclusions as "fallacious".
New England Journal of Medicine: Protecting privacy and the public - limits on police use of bioidentifiers in Europe (9th July 2009)
Regarding the Home Office's consultation proposals, George Annas concludes: "The proposal to destroy all DNA samples is stunning, goes well beyond the ruling, and is to be applauded. The 6- and 12-year retention times, on the other hand, seem excessive, and they may be reduced further depending on public reaction".
Mr Justice Beatson: Forensic science and human rights: the challenges (16th June 2009)
Mr Justice Beatson asks: "Will policy formed on the basis of this research lead to the confidence of the public in the policy choices made and thus in the National DNA Database which the government seeks? It is suggested that there is a risk that it will not unless the questions about the legitimate claims and boundaries of privacy and autonomy raised by the Strasbourg Court, but not dealt with in the Consultation Paper, are addressed".
Straight statistics: The DNA database: innocent or guilty: what's the difference? (15th June 2009)
Professor Sheila Bird describes the arguments used by the Home Office as "a travesty of both statistical science and logical thinking".
- Press releases
- Consultation documents