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Genetics: Databases

Volume 486: debated on Monday 19 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of the prison population in England and Wales has a profile on the national DNA database. (241664)

The purpose of the national DNA database (NDNAD) is to match DNA profiles taken from individuals with those taken from crime scenes. It therefore holds only the information necessary for this function, and does not contain criminal records or information on whether those on it are in prison.

There are good reasons for believing that the great majority of the prison population has a profile on the NDNAD. Police forces have had the power to retain DNA taken from those convicted of recordable offences since the establishment of the DNA database in 1995. For the first few years this power was exercised in relation to more serious offenders, but from 2000 onwards additional funding was made available under the DNA expansion programme to make it standard practice to take samples from all offenders. In April 2004, an amendment to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 came into effect which extended powers to take DNA samples to all those arrested for recordable offences. Following this, taking a DNA sample in the custody suite has become routine procedure. In addition, two prisoner sampling projects have been undertaken, most recently in 2003, to take DNA from any prisoner who had not already been sampled, for example because they had been imprisoned before DNA sampling was widely practiced.

Nevertheless, we are determined to ensure that the most serious offenders are on the NDNAD. On 16 December 2008 I announced that we will work with the police to continue to increase the number of convicted offenders on the NDNAD. This will focus on those convicted of serious offences and will include taking DNA from offenders in prison for rape and murder not already on the NDNAD.