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National DNA Database

Volume 710: debated on Thursday 7 May 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 16 December 2008, I announced that I would bring forward proposals to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S and Marper.

I am pleased to announce today the commencement of the public consultation exercise to keep the right people on the DNA database through the retention, use and governance of DNA and fingerprints. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses.

The European Court found that the “blanket and indiscriminate” retention policy for DNA and fingerprints breached Article 8. We, of course, accept the judgment of the court. But we also accept the court’s recognition of the importance of using DNA and fingerprints to tackle and prevent crime, terrorism and ensure public protection. Public protection has been our key priority in developing these proposals. The proposals focus on achieving a proportionate balance between allowing the police to effectively detect, investigate and deal with offenders whilst ensuring that appropriate safeguards and protections are available to the individual. To achieve that balance, I am proposing changes in five key areas.

First I am proposing that all samples are destroyed. This involves both existing samples held by the police and, in future, a requirement that samples must be destroyed no later than six months from the date on which they were taken.

Secondly, profiles for persons arrested but not convicted may only be retained for a maximum period of six years. Thereafter they must be automatically removed. The profile of a person arrested for an offence in relation to violent, sexual or terrorist offences would be retained for 12 years and thereafter automatically removed. Any offending or further arrest within that timeline will result in a new period of six or 12 years as appropriate being applied. These timescales are based on groundbreaking research by the Jill Dando Institute.

Thirdly, young people aged under 18 years old may be involved in crime during their developing years, but for many it is an isolated incident. That is why I am setting out proposals which would allow the DNA of a person arrested and convicted of a minor offence to be removed from the database on reaching 18 years old. For those arrested and not convicted of any further offences, the profiles will be deleted after six years or on their eighteenth birthday, whichever is sooner. I have already requested those under 10 to be removed from the database. That has been done.

Fourthly, in terms of openness and transparency, I am proposing that the criteria for destruction of profiles and fingerprints before expiry of the six-year or 12-year period should be set out in regulations, and not just police guidance as at present. This would enable people to know whether or not they would qualify to make such an application to their local chief constable. People would also be able to judicially review the decision of the chief constable if they disagreed with his/her decision. I am also proposing that an independent advisory panel be established to monitor implementation of the regulations.

Lastly, I indicated in December 2008 that we need to make sure that those who should be on the database, are on the database. That is why I have included proposals extending police powers to take samples and fingerprints following conviction. The proposals also outline powers to change the law to include those serious violent and sexual offenders who are now back in the community and so that UK citizens or residents who commit offences overseas involving violence or sexual matters have their DNA taken upon return to the UK.

The approach I am putting forward for consideration is about implementing the judgment and applying the scope provided for in the judgment to ensure public protection and enhance individual safeguards.