Probe into criminal DNA disc blunder

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The Independent Online

Gordon Brown pledged a full inquiry into yet another data blunder today after serious offenders from the Netherlands were left free to commit crime in the UK.

The Prime Minister said the Government would examine "all details" of how the CPS ignored a computer disc containing DNA profiles for 2,000 known criminals.

The information was sent to London by the Dutch authorities in January last year - but investigations were not launched until last month. At least 11 had committed offences in this country while the disc was apparently lying untouched on a desk.

Tory leader David Cameron branded the events a "catastrophic failure", accusing the Government of doing "absolutely nothing" to prevent the crimes.

But, answering questions in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Brown insisted a thorough investigation would be carried out.

"The Attorney General has asked the CPS to conduct an inquiry into this very matter," he said.

"This was a request by the Dutch authorities for us to look through our DNA records.

"The inquiry will cover all details of what happened. But it was only possible for the Dutch to ask us to look at our DNA records because we are keeping those records. The Conservatives opposed that legislation."

In a statement, the CPS said the delay in using the information was "very regrettable".

"Clearly it is very regrettable that there was a delay in acting on the crime profiles of around 2,000 unknown individuals submitted by the Dutch authorities.

"The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, has ordered the CPS to conduct an urgent inquiry as to what happened and to report to her as soon as possible.

"She will be ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to make sure that this does not happen again."

However, a spokeswoman insisted there would have been no possibility of identifying the offenders if it was not for the Government's policies on sharing data with other countries.

"This exercise shows the clear benefits of having arrangements to allow DNA data on unsolved crimes to be exchanged. Criminals who might otherwise have been at large in the UK indefinitely may well now be brought to justice."

She added that the priority now was to identify matches from the list, and nothing would be done to "jeopardise" the police probe.