Are the police keeping DNA records of those they arrest

01:00 Wed 16th May 2001 |

asks M Scott:
Blink and you may have missed it (the election is hogging all the news) but a bill has just been rushed through Parliament which would allow the authorities to take DNA from almost everyone who is arrested. This DNA information will stay in the national database forever.

Q. Once someone's been convicted, you mean
No, everyone.

Q. What Even people who volunteered DNA so they could be eliminated as a suspect
Yes. Anyone who volunteers their DNA will sign a consent form and they will lose the right to determine what happens to their DNA information after that. This even includes the victims of crime, if they gave their consent.

Q. Surely you can ask to have it removed later
At the moment, there's no way of applying for the removal of your DNA from the database.

Q. Is this happening anywhere else in the world
No. In fact, in France and Canada it's illegal to keep DNA samples of anyone who has been proven innocent of a crime, and juveniles' samples are destroyed when they become adults if they don't re-offend. In the US, even those held on serial murder charges have the right to refuse to give a DNA sample.

Q. Why is no-one protesting about it
Well, some people are: almost half of the frontline police officers who have been asked to provide samples have refused because they are concerned about their privacy. This is despite assurances that their DNA won't be used to test for drugs or passed on to the Child Support Agency!

Q. Anyone else
Yes, top forensic experts, Government advisers, lawyers - and the scientist who invented DNA fingerprinting, Alec Jeffreys - are all outraged by what they see as a strike against justice and fairness. Helena Kennedy QC, president of the Civil Liberties Trust, points out that the databases need to be totally secure so that there is no 'fear of the leaching of information from databases into the hands of potential employers or insurers'. She has called for the abuse of DNA information to become a criminal offence.

Q. Can you be forced to give a sample
Police in Britain already have the right to take (by force if necessary) DNA samples from anyone taken into custody, from murder suspects to shoplifters. This is done by taking a swab from the inside of the cheek.

Q. Is there a risk of someone having the same DNA profile as you
Yes. Technical advances have made it extremely rare, but it can happen.

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