The planned deletion of the DNA profiles of millions of innocent people still lacks a definitive timetable, it was revealed today. Conservative MP Philip Davies asked the government how much time would be required once the legislation has been passed to remove the DNA of people who have been found innocent but whose records remain on the database. Home Office minister James Brokenshire said:
"Our aim is to remove the vast majority of non-convicted people from the NDNAD (National DNA Database) as soon as is practicable, following enactment of the relevant provisions."
The minister had previously announced that over 6 million DNA profiles have now been entered onto the database since it was created, including more than 1 million people who do not have "a current conviction, caution, formal warning or reprimand".
Whereas previously DNA could be kept indefinitely by the police, even if someone had been arrested but not charged or convicted, the Protection of Freedoms Bill 2011 sets out new legislation. Those arrested for minor crimes will have their DNA removed if they are not convicted, however anyone arrested for a serious crime will have their record kept for three years as a precaution.
Certain elements of the police have attempted to use the deletion of DNA from the database as a means to scare the public via reports in the media about rapists and murderers going free as a result. Genewatch UK dismissed the police figures claiming an additional 1,000 crimes may occur every year as false, determining the real number to be closer to 12 low-level crimes.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, challenged the plans of the government:
"They are going too far in restricting the use of DNA from suspects who have been arrested. Of course there must be safeguards in the system, but sensible use of DNA also helps catch very dangerous criminals and prevents innocent people being wrongly charged too."
These people, many of whom are children, have never been found guilty of a crime; however their DNA records still remain on a database amongst violent criminals. The government must move swiftly to enact this legislation, delete these records and establish good practice for maintaining a DNA database.