United Kingdom

The UK's DNA database was first established in 1995. Two changes in the law, made by the Blair Government in 2001 and 2003, led to a massive expansion to the database. DNA samples and records were collected routinely from everyone arrested for any recordable offence, from the age of ten, and retained indefinitely whether or not they were changed or convicted.

The 2008 Interpol survey reports that 329,660 crime scene DNA profiles and 5,093,145 individuals' profiles, plus 163 unknown/deceased DNA profiles were held in the UK at the time of the survey. The number of individuals' DNA profiles stored has since increased to about 6 million.

In 2003, the UK lobbied to water down the UNESCO International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, so that Article 21 no longer required the destruction of DNA and genetic data from innocent people at the end of a criminal investigation.

Scotland rejected plans to retain DNA records from innocent people indefinitely in 2006.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the law in England and Wales breached the European Convention on Human Rights in December 2008 (see the Marper case).

The Coalition Government adopted the Protection of Freedoms Act on 1st May 2012. The DNA profiles and fingerprints of more than a million innocent people have been removed from police databases and DNA samples have also been destroyed.

The law in Northern Ireland is also being made compatible with the judgment of the European Court. The power to do this has now been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

More information about the UK National DNA Database can be found elsewhere on the GeneWatch website here.

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