In a positive step forward, the Government has announced that more than 1.1 million DNA profiles belonging to innocent people have so far been destroyed to allow new laws to be brought into force. In addition, 6.3 million DNA samples containing sensitive biological material, which are no longer needed as a completed DNA profile has been obtained, have also been destroyed.
Big Brother Watch has campaigned on this issue for several years, raising concerns that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 failed to adopt the Scottish system of retention meaning that English and Welsh citizens could find that their details are retained and shared in situations where someone from Scotland or another country would not have to worry about something that happened many years in the past.
For more than one million innocent people to have their DNA taken and stored is a stark warning of how the last Government got the balance between security and freedom badly wrong and highlights that public safety can be protected without a constant assault upon our privacy and civil liberties.
DNA sample destruction is due to be completed by the end of this month, while DNA profile and fingerprint deletion will be finished by the end of September. By the time the Act commences in October, only those convicted of a criminal offence will have their DNA and fingerprints retained indefinitely. Home Office ministers should be congratulated for seeing through this important measure in the face of significant vested interests who saw no problem with retaining innocent people’s DNA.
It is now essential that the vast amounts of information held by police forces on innocent people, some little more than idle gossip, is brought under the same scrutiny and innocent people’s lives are not blighted by other police databases.