Yesterday I wrote about Home Secretary Alan Johnson's threat to remove the fixed retention time for innocent DNA profiles of 6 years from the Crime and Security Bill if the Tories and Lib Dems did not support the DNA provisions in the bill.
Today a press release has dropped into my inbox from the Home Office, proudly proclaiming that the Crime and Security Bill has just received Royal Assent, with the following provision:
- a new DNA retention regime to hold the DNA profiles of convicted offenders indefinitely and keep the DNA profiles of those who are arrested but not convicted of a recordable offence for a fixed amount of time
It was reported by Kable overnight that Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, had withdrawn his opposition to the bill (the Conservatives had previously been pushing for a maximum retention of 3 years – similar to the Scottish model) with the following comments:
"We will not seek to block this bill because the indefinite retention of innocent people's DNA is unacceptable and has been ruled illegal," said Grayling.
"DNA data provides a useful tool for solving crimes. A Conservative government will legislate in the first session in order to make sure that our DNA database will only include permanent records of people who are guilty, instead of those who are innocent, and to go further than the government to help fight crime."
Some are reporting this as a Tory flip-flop, but there is clearly motive behind this move. As I wrote in recent weeks, the ramping-up of the debate over the DNA database had drawn in Tony Blair and become one of Labour's key 'wedge issues' with the Conservatives.
However for those who aren't aware of the dangers of indefinite innocent DNA retention (and the fact it is illegal), the unedifying site of the victims' families whose killers were caught using DNA being wheeled out to make the Tories look soft on crime, may actually have had an effect.
It won't be the end of the haggles over the DNA database (Big Brother Watch intends to make sure of that – more to come later) but it is disappointing that this bill has now become law.
By Dylan Sharpe