Freedoms Bill: What you can do
The Protection of Freedoms Bill requires the automatic deletion of innocent people's records from the DNA and fingerprint databases, and the destruction of all DNA samples. However, GeneWatch believes that there are some important changes that should be made to the Bill, including the deletion of innocent people's police records at the same time as their DNA and fingerprint records.
Records on the Police National Computer (PNC) are now being transferred to the Police National Database (PND). It is estimated that a quarter of the UK population will have records on the PND, including 6 million innocent people. Currently, the Bill does not require these records to be deleted if a person is innocent: they will all be kept to age 100.
If you think there should be changes to the Bill, you can write to or visit your MP : he or she will be voting on the Bill. You can ask your MP to write to the Home Secretary (Theresa May) asking her to ensure that deletion of innocent people's PNC and PND records is included in the Bill.
There is more information explaining what is in the Bill here.
The Government, MPs and Lords can all propose changes (amendments) to the Bill to improve it before it becomes law. GeneWatch has already recommended some changes in our briefing on the Bill and our submission to the Bill Committee.
Black Mental Health UK has also launched a campaign to ensure that Police National Computer (PNC) and Police National Database (PND) records and photographs are deleted at the same time as innocent people's DNA and fingerprint records. You can visit their campaigns page for a draft letter to send to your MP.
Contacting your MP
Changes are more likely to be made to the Bill if MPs hear from lots of people all proposing the same or similar ideas. If you are an innocent person with a record on the DNA database this is your chance to persuade your MP that your police record should be deleted, as well as your DNA and fingerprint records. You may also wish to propose some of the other changes suggested below or in the GeneWatch parliamentary briefing.
For example, if you have a caution or conviction for a minor offence or your child has more than one warning or reprimand, you may wish to persuade your MP that your or your child's records should not be kept for life.
The most effective thing to do is to ring your MP's constituency office and ask to make an appointment to see him or her, but you can also write a letter or send an email.
In your letter or email or when you see your MP you can:
- Tell your MP you welcome the Protection of Freedoms Bill and would like him or her to support the deletion of innocent people's DNA and fingerprint records and destruction of DNA samples.
- Ask your MP to make sure that the Bill is amended to ensure the deletion of police records at the same time as DNA and fingerprint records.
- Ask your MP to support any other changes that you wish to see.
Here are some suggestions for changes you can propose:
- In GeneWatch's view, the most important omission from the Bill is that it does not require police records to be deleted at the same time as DNA and fingerprint records. This is a major concern because police records can be used to refuse someone a visa or a job. If you agree, you should tell your MP that records on the Police National Computer and Police National Database should be included in Clause 1 of the Bill. There is more information about police records here.
- Another controversial proposal in the Bill is that the police can keep anyone's DNA and fingerprint records for reasons of national security. This can only be done for two years at a time but it can be renewed indefinitely. If you are concerned about this you should tell your MP: this is Clause 9 of the Bill.
- The Bill also treats people who have been given cautions, reprimands and warnings the same as people who have been convicted by a court. This means adults with a single caution and children with more than one reprimand or warning will have their records kept indefinitely. GeneWatch believes this is a excessive and has proposed a five-year retention time for cautions and two years for reprimands and warnings. This is in Clause 18 of the Bill.
- Clause 7 of the Bill removes the DNA and fingerprint records of children convicted of a single minor offence after 5 years. However, adults convicted of a single minor offence will have their records kept indefinitely. GeneWatch has suggested that similar rules should also apply to adults convicted of a single minor offence but that the retention time should be ten years for adults (compared to five years for children).
You can of course make different proposals for changes if you wish.
For the first time, members of the public were able comment on the proposals in the Bill online. Comments closed on 7th March but you can read what people said here.