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National DNA Database

Volume 474: debated on Monday 21 April 2008

2. What estimate she has made of the number of convictions secured by the use of data from DNA samples retained on the national DNA database in 2007-08. (199722)

Data are available on the number of detections with DNA, but not the number of convictions. The data for 2007-08 will be available this coming June. To give an indication, in 2006-07, 41,148 crimes were detected in which a DNA match was available or played a part.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does she agree that, if further restrictions were placed on the data that are held on the national DNA database, she and other Home Office Ministers would not be in a position to come to the House and give such positive numbers?

I agree completely. Taking the figures for 2006-07 alone, 452 homicides, 644 rapes and 222 other sexual offences were among the offences detected thanks to the help of DNA. The murders in Suffolk by Steve Wright and the murder of Sally Anne Bowman by Mark Dixie were detected and those men imprisoned thanks to the DNA database.

Dr. John Bond of the scientific support unit at Northamptonshire police has been at the forefront of developing DNA, forensics and other scientific techniques to detect crime and criminals. What specific incentives does the Home Office give to police forces to expand their scientific support operations?

The forensic science capability in this country is a very important issue. We are keen to ensure that we have proper forensic support across those bodies that supply that, including the police, and we now have a permanent regulator in the form of Andrew Rennison, who ensures that our forensics work is of top scientific quality.

Of course, I accept but the beneficial aspects of the DNA database, it is now the largest of any country in the world. It is estimated that there are 500,000 mistakes connected with the database. Can the Minister assure the House that that will be dealt with, and that the information contained on the database is protected from any unfortunate loss?

Security is of course an important issue. The National Policing Improvement Agency, which is responsible as the custodian of the DNA database, is also responsible for other key national databases and has a good track record. My right hon. Friend mentions replication, which is currently at 13.3 per cent. but going down. That is partly because in the early days of new DNA testing, police forces took extra samples to meet higher evidential standards. Much work has gone on to educate police forces in taking DNA samples, so that replication is being reduced. However, that does not adversely affect any of the individuals involved.

More than 2,000 Dutch DNA samples, many relating to serious offences, were mislaid in 2007 for over a year due to the incompetence of UK authorities. Will the Minister tell us today exactly how many suspects have now been arrested by the UK police, and which offences were committed in this country?

This is an ongoing police investigation and it would be inappropriate for me to talk about any partial findings while that investigation, which is an operational matter, is going on. It would be wrong to identify or alert any of the individuals suspected, as it might give them the chance to go under cover. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made a commitment to this House to report back when we have all the information after a full, thorough investigation by the police.

We have solved an enormous number of crimes because of the data held on people who have had their DNA taken on arrest, whether they were charged or not. Up to 2005 alone, 3,000 offences were identified involving those arrested and not charged, including 37 murders, 16 attempted murders and 90 rapes. I ask my hon. Friend which of those crimes he would like not to have been solved.