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National DNA Database

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

4. What her latest estimate is of the number of people without criminal convictions whose records are stored on the national DNA database. (229772)

There are about 857,000 people on the national DNA database who do not have a current criminal record on the police national computer, but that figure includes those who have been convicted and had their records deleted and those for whom proceedings are still ongoing, as well as those who have never been convicted.

The Minister will be aware that two people in the latter category—S, a juvenile, and Michael Marper—have a case that is being considered by the European Court of Human Rights. Will the Minister confirm that, if their case is successful, he will take steps to delete immediately the records of everybody who falls into that category and will not leave it to people to apply for such deletions to be made?

Obviously, we will consider what actions would have to be taken in that situation, but we believe that we have a strong case and that no breach of article 8 of the European convention on human rights is taking place. We believe that there is the right balance between rights and public safety in the system that we operate. We are also clear that the DNA database is an important tool to help police detect crime, and we have no intention of doing anything to undermine their work.

Scandalously, 100,000 children who have never been convicted of any offence are on the DNA database. What about people who work with children, and who have never been convicted of a crime, but who are on the DNA database and find their future employment prospects blighted?

Yes, it is the case that some young people can be on the database if they have been arrested and their DNA and fingerprints have been taken. Those under 10 in England and Wales could be on the database because consent was given by their parent or guardian. On employment, what my hon. Friend says would not be the case. The information to which he refers is not held on the DNA database, and a future employer could not use it to discriminate against a future employee.

Does the Minister agree that if there is a good argument for the retention of DNA samples in the circumstances that we are describing, it would be far better for the Government to make the argument for a comprehensive DNA database straightforwardly to the House and the wider public, so that we could debate the merits of the proposal? If he is looking for an opportunity for such a debate, I notice in the Order Paper that there is a chance for a general debate on a home affairs related topic next Thursday.

The Government have no plans to bring forward such a database, not least because of the cost that that would involve. The hon. Gentleman talks about making a strong case; let me make a strong case to him. In the past year, the DNA database has helped to detect the criminals involved in more than 83 homicide cases, 184 rapes and 7,000 burglaries—that is a strong case.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the difficulty of securing convictions in rape cases, to which he alluded. Will he reassure me, my constituents and the victims of rape crimes—there were 540 such victims last year—that the DNA database will continue, and will continue to be successful in solving rape crimes and other crimes?