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DNA Profiles Disk Inquiry

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2008

My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

“I am today publishing a report from Peter Lewis, the Chief Executive of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), of his inquiry into the CPS handling of a disk containing 2,159 Dutch DNA serious crime scene profiles that had been sent to the CPS by the Dutch authorities in January 2007.

Mr. Lewis’s inquiry comprised three key strands, which have established:

The series of events beginning in May 2005 leading up to the provision to the CPS of the Dutch DNA disk in January 2007. This identified the nature of the arrangements made between the UK and Dutch authorities for the exchange of DNA profiles for comparison with their respective national databases—referred to as “Operation Thread”—and how these arrangements were carried out.

The series of events and the actions of CPS personnel between receipt of the Dutch DNA disk in January 2007 and passing it on to the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) in January 2008. This included consideration as to whether action of any kind should be taken against any CPS employee.

The progress made since January 2008: to pursue the analysis of the Dutch DNA profiles; to exchange information arising from this with the Dutch authorities; and to identify, trace and prosecute those suspected of criminal offences both in the UK and in the Netherlands.

The Solicitor-General and I are very grateful to Peter Lewis for his thorough inquiry and for this comprehensive report. On the basis of this, we are in no doubt that there is potentially immense value in these exchanges of data and in the investment the UK Government have made in establishing a DNA database. The exchange of information may lead to the prosecution of criminals who would not otherwise be brought to justice.

However, the report reveals significant shortcomings in the way in which this process was planned and implemented. The report sets out that at no time had it been agreed that the Dutch DNA disk should be sent to the CPS, and that it should rather have been sent to the UK central authority. But there was a highly regrettable delay to the process while the disk was in the possession of the CPS.

The report identifies actions taken by the CPS to address internal performance issues. It also makes a number of recommendations for managing the mutual exchange of DNA data more effectively in the future.

These are:

Any bilateral discussions for the exchange of DNA data between the UK and foreign jurisdictions should include representatives from the CPS and the equivalent prosecuting authority from that foreign jurisdiction.

Such discussions should result in the production of a written agreement or protocol, and Ministers should be informed before the mutual exchange arrangements are implemented.

Any such agreement or protocol should outline the key steps to be taken, attribute responsibility for each step, preferably to a named individual, identify a senior point of contact in each organisation and set an agreed timescale for completion of each stage of the process, and establish a mechanism for the recorded agreement of any revisions to that timescale where necessary.

Every such agreement or protocol should comply with the pre-existing legal and procedural requirements of the jurisdictions/states involved, including any data protection regimes.

Plans for addressing any real or perceived public protection issues that may arise from the results of the DNA comparisons should be in place prior to implementation of any mutual exchange arrangements.

An agreed media handling plan should be in place prior to implementation of any mutual exchange arrangements.

These recommendations have been accepted and the National Policing Improvement Agency will lead on ensuring that they are followed. In addition, the UK agreed to the EU Council decision on PRUM in June 2007 which will provide member states’ law enforcement authorities with access to DNA and fingerprint data on a hit or no hit basis, and direct access to vehicle registration. This will allow for much quicker and improved tools to share data for the detection, investigation and prevention of serious crime whilst maintaining appropriate data protection safeguards. It is due to be implemented three years from adoption by the European Union Council of Ministers, which is expected shortly.

The report indicates that action has been taken since January 2008 to analyse the Dutch data and compare it to the UK DNA database. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made a commitment that Ministers will report to Parliament once the outcome of the police investigation following liaison with the Dutch authorities is complete.

Copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.”