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.

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.


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