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Genetics: Databases

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 10 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether DNA and fingerprints may be taken from individuals who are being asked to take a breathalyser test; (156525)

(2) whether individuals not subject to charges but who were subject to a breathalyser test are entitled to (a) decline when asked to submit to fingerprinting and the taking of DNA and (b) request that the DNA and fingerprints should be destroyed;

(3) what rules apply to the taking of fingerprints and DNA samples when individuals are asked to take a breathalyser test (a) at a police station and (b) in their vehicle; what differences there are between the rules in both cases; and if she will make a statement.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 gives a constable power to require a driver to provide a breath specimen for a preliminary breath test. This is generally taken at the roadside. Under section 6D of the 1988 Act, the driver may be arrested if as a result of the test, the constable suspects that that his/her breath or blood alcohol level exceeds the prescribed limit or if for any reason the driver does not cooperate with the test and the constable suspects alcohol (or drugs) to be in the driver’s body.

The purpose of this arrest is to enable a constable to require the driver to provide an evidential sample which, depending on the circumstances, may be breath, blood or urine, to be analysed to determine whether the driver may have committed a specific drink/driving offence under the Road Traffic Act.

The taking and retention of fingerprints and DNA for the purposes of investigating other offences and for identifying suspects are governed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Under PACE, fingerprints and DNA cannot be taken without consent unless the driver has been arrested for, or charged with, a specific recordable offence, for example, driving with excess alcohol or when unfit to drive through drink or drugs, failing without reasonable excuse to take a preliminary breath test or failing without reasonable excuse to provide an evidential specimen for analysis. Biometric data under PACE is taken at a police station.

Police may retain fingerprints and samples lawfully taken under PACE. It is a matter for the chief officer for each force area to determine whether or not samples or fingerprints should be retained.