Details of innocent people are still being held on DNA database

Government pledge to protect civil liberties is not being honoured, campaigners warn

The Government is failing to delete innocent people from Britain's vast DNA database, according to figures released today which shows that nearly 70,000 under-16s have now had their genetic fingerprints recorded.

A report compiled by civil liberties campaigners concludes that the current system for retaining DNA remains "uncertain and illiberal", despite assurances from the Government that the profiles of people found to be innocent would be deleted.

The research reveals that the number of people held on the UK's DNA database – the world's largest – has now hit more than 5.5 million, with 900,000 extra profiles added between January 2009 and November 2011 alone.

Through a series of Freedom of Information requests, researchers at Big Brother Watch asked Britain's police forces to detail how many DNA profiles they had collected and whether any had been deleted because a person was subsequently not charged.

Their replies showed a huge variance between the forces. Only three – North Wales, Staffordshire and Mercia Police – were able to distinguish between the DNA profiles of those convicted and those either not charged or acquitted at trial. Forces that did not supply such information either didn't have it, or refused to give it for cost reasons, suggesting such information was not readily available.

Figures for how many DNA profiles have been deleted also showed wide differences among the forces. Bedfordshire Constabulary has shown the greatest commitment to ensuring that innocent people are expunged from their database. Of the 11,858 samples they have taken between 2009 and 2011, 2,352 have been deleted. By contrast, Avon and Somerset Police had only deleted 41 of the 38,884 samples taken over the same period.

Until recently, police forces were allowed indefinitely to retain the DNA profiles of anyone they arrested, regardless of whether they were later charged. Under Labour, this system led to the creation of a vast database, prompting promises from both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to reform the system.

When the Coalition came to power, it pledged a switch to the Scottish model, which places much tougher restrictions on how long profiles can be held by police and gives power to the courts to arbitrate on key decisions.

But campaigners say the resulting legislation – which came in earlier this year under the Protection of Freedoms Act – is a "watered down" version of the Scottish model which allows the police to retain too much power.

In a statement last night, the Home Office denied that it was reneging on its promise to protect innocent people and said deletions would begin next month.

"Our focus is on keeping the DNA profiles of the guilty, not the innocent," a spokeswoman said. "DNA profiles of people not charged with an offence will no longer be retained. Those charged with a serious sexual or violent offence will be retained for three years and in special cases can be extended by two years with the approval of a magistrates' court."

Hits and misses: the database in action

April 1995

The world's first national DNA database comes into operation and is hailed by the Home Secretary Michael Howard as the biggest breakthrough in the fight against crime since fingerprints.

 

July 1999

Labour announces plans for police to keep thousands of DNA samples given by innocent people to compare with potential matches found at scenes of crime.

 

January 2001

Police allowed to retain DNA from suspected criminals indefinitely whether they are charged or not.

 

November 2005

Figures show black men are four times more likely to be on the DNA database, causing a row over racial profiling.

 

Summer 2006

Two prominent cases in the space of a few months highlight how DNA database can crack cases.

Steve Wright, who killed five prostitutes in the Ipswich area, is arrested after a match appeared on the DNA database for a 2003 theft conviction. Mark Dixie is arrested nine months after the murder of Sally Anne Bowman, when his DNA is taken after a pub fight.

 

December 2008

European Court of Human Rights rules that indefinite detention of innocent people's DNA is a breach of their right to privacy.

 

May 2010

The Coalition government pledges to adopt the "Scottish model" which only allows the police to retain DNA samples from uncharged people arrested for violent or sex crimes.

 

March 2012

A teenager spends three months behind bars on an accusation of rape after a DNA database blunder fingers him wrongly for the crime.

5.5 million

Number of people whose data is now held on the database

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape