Police call for national DNA register

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The Independent Online
A NATIONAL DNA database for every man and woman in Britain would save lives and cut crime, a senior police officer will advise the Home Office today.

Chief Superintendent Peter Gammon, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, wants the Government to consider taking genetic "fingerprints" from the entire population.

The Home Office yesterday indicated that it would be prepared to discuss the idea, although there is expected to be opposition on grounds of cost and infringement of civil liberties.

At present, there are about 250,000 DNA profiles stored on computer, mainly from offences involving violence, burglary, and sexual assaults.

Chief Supt Gammon, who is to meet Alun Michael, the Home Office minister, today, said: "I am asking for an examination of the issue of setting up a national DNA database for all the population. There are potentials here that we need to consider. In the investigation of major crime, DNA is becoming more and more important, and it is a very costly process to take samples from people, process them, and compare them with samples we may find at the scene of a major crime.

"So if we set up a national database, we make investigation of major crime more efficient, and there will be cost savings. You have serial killers on the loose, serial rapists - if you can identify them at their first offence, we can save people's lives."

At present, the national DNA database is limited to people convicted or suspected of offences. The database is currently making more than 300 matches a week between samples found at crime scenes and DNA held on the database, according to the Forensic Science Service.

The proposal was criticised by human rights group Liberty as "unbalanced, misguided and wrong".

Eight "serious security breaches" in two years at the Government's forensic science laboratories saw evidence destroyed in more than 200 criminal cases and more than six kilos of illegal drugs stolen, the National Audit Office reports today. But it also praises major breakthroughs in the use of DNA profiling, with more than 20,000 matches between samples left at crime scenes and samples held on the Forensic Science Service's database.