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National DNA Database

Volume 464: debated on Monday 15 October 2007

7. What recent estimate she has made of the number of people whose DNA is held on the national database who have committed no offence. (157283)

Data obtained from the police national computer in June 2006 provides the latest available information on this issue, but I have asked officials to provide more up-to-date information as soon as that is available, and I have also asked that data both on those arrested but not subsequently convicted and on those who have been convicted be included in the DNA database annual report from early next year.

The Minister may be aware of the case of my constituent, 75-year-old Geoffrey Orchard, who was wrongfully arrested and received a written apology from the police, but who still cannot get his DNA information removed from the database. I know that the Minister will say that she cannot do anything about that case, but does she really understand the enormous extent to which good will and support for the police and for her Department are being undermined by a system in which DNA information is being recorded aggressively, but removed in a haphazard way and on a discretionary basis, dependent on police force area?

It is worth stressing that a person’s DNA being on the database does not suggest guilt; it is simply a registration of their DNA and basic biographical information. It is also worth asking which of the crimes solved thanks to the DNA database—the 452 homicides, the 644 rapes and the more than 8,000 domestic burglaries—the hon. Gentleman wishes had not been resolved as a result.

Does the Minister agree with Lord Sedley about the potential benefits of a DNA database of all citizens? If so, will she and the Home Secretary volunteer samples to boost the database and help in the elimination of cold-case suspects in drug and other offences?

There are no Government plans for a universal database such as Lord Justice Sedley has suggested. However, I and other Ministers would welcome a debate about the DNA database, which has grown. Unlike the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), I studied it when it came into force—when I was doing A-levels—so we have different perspectives on the matter. Because it has grown to include more than 4 million people, it is important that we get the chance to debate how we proceed. I have already asked officials to look at the design of the forms on which people give their permission—if they have given it voluntarily—for that information to remain permanently on the database.