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Genetics: Databases

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to the answer of 10 September 2008, Official Report, columns 1767-8W, on genetics: databases, of the 14,000 offences linked to DNA profiles retained since 2001, how many were detected crimes in which an offender was brought to justice. (241669)

It has been assumed that this question refers to the written answer on 10 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1767-8W (as the Official Report for 10 September 2008 does not include a written answer at columns 1767-8W on Genetics: Databases).

The written answer on 10 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1767-8W referred to research information on the number of DNA profiles taken from persons arrested, charged but not convicted of an offence that have resulted in a DNA match, providing the police with an intelligence link on the possible identity of the offender and assisting in the detection of crimes. The research information indicated that in the period May 2001 to December 2005, an estimated 200,000 DNA samples taken from people charged with offences had been retained on the NDNAD, which would previously have had to be removed because of the absence of a conviction. From these, approximately 8,500 profiles of individuals have been linked with crime scene profiles, involving nearly 14,000 offences. These offences included 114 murders, 55 attempted murders and 116 rapes.

No information is available on how many of the 14,000 offences linked to DNA profiles retained since 2001 were detected and on whether an offender was brought to justice. It is understood that this information would have been too time-consuming for the researchers to collate; it would have involved requesting information on the outcomes of the 14,000 crimes from the 43 police forces in England and Wales and subsequent checks by forces of case record systems.

I have asked the National Policing Improvement Agency to look into the possibility of updating the research information on the number of DNA profiles taken from persons arrested, charged but not convicted of an offence that have resulted in a DNA match, providing the police with information on the possible identity of the offender.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individuals have a record on the national DNA database; and of these how many have not been convicted of any crime. (243763)

[holding answer 15 December 2008]: At 30 September 2008, there were an estimated 4,631,838 persons with a profile on the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Of these, an estimated 4,355,904 persons had been sampled by forces in England and Wales.

Data on arrest and criminal histories are not held on the NDNAD, but are held on the Police National Computer (PNC). Such data are not available routinely, but the National Policing Improvement Agency obtains information periodically on the number of persons on the NDNAD who have a conviction and on the number of those who have not. This information was last obtained at the end of March 2008.

On 31 March 2008, there were an estimated 4,116,713 persons on the NDNAD sampled by police forces in England and Wales, of whom 3,832,986 persons had a record retained on PNC. Of these, over 3.25 million persons had a conviction, caution, formal warning or reprimand recorded on the PNC and around 573,600 persons had no current conviction, caution, formal warning or reprimand recorded on PNC.

The 573,600 figure includes some persons who may have had a caution or conviction record removed from PNC after five to 10 years in accordance with the Rules for Criminal Record Weeding (which applied prior to April 2006); persons who have been charged and acquitted or proceedings discontinued; persons who have been charged with a recordable offence and proceedings are on-going; and persons who have been arrested but no further action was taken against them.

The PNC records for the other 283,727 persons had been removed from the PNC for various reasons, for example, their conviction and caution records had been weeded after five to 10 years, the person had been acquitted or proceedings were discontinued.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many times the national DNA database has been accessed in relation to a case where (a) a conviction was made and (b) a conviction was not made; and how many convicted individuals in such circumstances had a DNA profile on the database but had no prior conviction. (243765)

[holding answer 15 December 2008]: The National DNA Database (NDNAD) functions by comparing subject profiles taken from individuals against DNA crime scene profiles retrieved from unsolved crimes. It cannot be accessed directly by the police service. The NDNAD currently generates around 3,100 matches per month. Details of matches are sent to the relevant police force, providing key intelligence on the possible identity of the offender.

Information on the number of convictions in which DNA profiles from the NDNAD have been used in evidence is not collected by the Home Office, as convictions are obtained by integrated criminal investigation and not by forensic science alone.

However, data have been collected since 1998 on the number of crimes detected in which a DNA match was available and/or played a part in solving the crime. It is estimated that over the period April 1998 to March 2008, there have been over 272,000 such detections.

Information on the number of detections/convictions in which DNA subject sample profiles on the NDNAD taken from persons with no previous convictions have been used in evidence is not available from the NDNAD, nor is it available from police force data collected by the Home Office on forensic activity and related detections. The NDNAD holds DNA profiles taken from persons arrested for a recordable offence but does not hold data on their criminal histories; this information is held on the police national computer (PNC).