In 1995, the United Kingdom National DNA Database (NDNAD) was founded by the now defunct National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), as a means of logging DNA samples from criminal suspects.
To date, profiles of an estimated 7 million people have been recorded, with samples being recovered at crime scenes or collected from those in police custody. In England and Wales, anyone arrested or detained at a police station will routinely have samples taken.
These samples are analysed to produce a DNA ‘profile’ – a series of 20 numbers plus an indicator showing the person’s gender. The NDNAD has contributed to convictions in over 300,000 cases since its inception, equating to roughly 1% of all solved crimes each year.
Protection of Freedoms
The UK’s database is one of the most comprehensive in the world, but critics have suggested it breaches privacy rights.
Until recently, records were stored indefinitely – profiles were kept on record even if innocence had been proved – but the Protection of Freedoms Act, 2012 means that, in most cases, all physical samples must now be destroyed within six months, and computer logs must be deleted if no charge or conviction is made. However, there are several exceptions within the Act that allow records to be kept if an ongoing concern is noted.
This continued retention has angered some campaigners, who are calling for records of all innocent people to be destroyed.
Monitoring how science impacts upon society is part of the mission statement for Genewatch UK. The not-for-profit organisation were influential in proposing changes to the NDNAD, but they argue that the Protection of Freedoms Act does not go far enough in upholding privacy.
There is a fear that such sensitive genetic information could be misused for research, and Genewatch believe the following issues still need to be confronted:-
- Indefinite retention of DNA profiles from children who have committed more than one minor offence, and adults who have committed a single minor offence, is still excessive;
- Collection of DNA on arrest for all recordable offences (where DNA is in most cases irrelevant to solving the crime) is unnecessary and expensive (especially for children);
- The issue of how long Police National Computer (PNC) records are retained for innocent people and people convicted of minor offences (such as begging or breaching the peace) has yet to be resolved.
The organisation is not opposed to the NDNAD in principle, and certainly values its role in criminal investigation, but it suggests more public debate is required in order to ensure that privacy rights are upheld and unnecessary information is not retained.
In short, under current legislation, if your client is convicted, no matter the crime, then their DNA profile will be kept on the National Police Computer indefinitely.
If your client is under the age of 18 and this is their first conviction, their profile will be kept on the system for five years (plus the length of any prison sentence). If they have previous convictions, their records will be kept indefinitely.
For terrorism cases, if your client has been arrested but not convicted, then their profile may also be kept indefinitely, dependent upon a case-by-case review. In all other instances, DNA profiles of innocent people must now be destroyed.
If you have any questions on DNA testing protocol, our team would be happy to help. Please call us on 0203 4243 470.