New DNA database to omit samples from most killers

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The Independent Online
A NATIONAL DNA database is to be set up by the Government, but it will not include the genetic 'fingerprints' of most convicted rapists and murderers, it was revealed yesterday.

Details were also released about the changes to the caution given by police, which includes the end of a suspect's right to silence. The new caution is almost three times longer and courts will be entitled to draw an inference from a refusal to talk.

The package of measures are included in draft codes of practice for the police, which, after consultation, are expected to be implemented in March next year.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said yesterday he would make an announcement, probably later this year, on setting up a database of criminals' DNA profiles. About 6,000 samples of blood, hair, tissue and semen are taken at the scenes of crimes annually, although details of only a few thousand people remain on files accessed by police. The new bank would probably hold tens of thousands of samples.

However, it would not include samples from most criminals convicted before the start-up date. Mr Howard said the Government did not want to introduce retrospective legislation.

At present, DNA may be taken only from suspects involved in serious offences. Under the new legislation in the Criminal Justice Bill, it may be taken from anyone charged with an offence punishable by imprisonment, including minor offences such as shoplifting, whether or not it is relevant to the particular investigation.

Liberty, the civil rights organisation, said it supported limited use of a database for sex offenders but warned that a national system would be open to abuse and raise serious civil liberty issues.

Other changes to the code of practice include:

A provision that statements made by a suspect before being interviewed at the police station be repeated to the person at the beginning of formal questioning to give a chance of denial.

New powers to stop and search people and vehicles where officers believe violence is imminent or to protect against terrorism.

Detailed guidance on the conduct of intimate and strip searches.