Take the innocent off DNA database, says inquiry

Ex-convicts' records should be erased as retaining profiles 'continues to criminalise them'

Innocent people should have their profiles deleted from the National DNA Database, an inquiry funded by the government says in a study published today.

Even guilty people who have served their time should eventually have their DNA records erased because retaining the profile "continues to criminalise them", the study concludes.

The "citizen's inquiry" overseen by the Human Genetics Commission urged ministers to take control of the database away from the police and the Home Office, by setting up an independent body.

It says some of the panel members believe that "past actions and hidden agendas have shown that the government cannot be trusted".

The inquiry's proposals to require the deletion of DNA records would make it impossible for police to use the database to solve "cold cases" - which ministers usually put forward as one of the main benefits of the scheme.

The panel made up of 30 members of the public - which was funded by £50,000 of taxpayers' money - criticised a number of ways the database operates.

New laws should be passed to limit who can access the database, including restricting police use to "seeking matches ... from a crime scene", it said.

Juries should be given better information about DNA in trials, with explanations from independent scientists.

A majority of panel members rejected a universal DNA database, with everyone in the country required to give a sample, possibly from birth, on the grounds of cost and the traditional assumption that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

The results of the four-month inquiry will feed into a further report by the Human Genetic Commission, expected next year. The chairman of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Professor Albert Weale, said in response to today's report: "We agree that the DNA of innocent people should not be kept by police."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman David Howarth said: "All the experts and the public agree that innocent people should be removed from the DNA database."

Press Association

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