Skip to main content

National DNA Database

Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the possibility that (a) foreign intelligence agencies or (b) foreign law enforcement agencies might gain unauthorised access to the United Kingdom's DNA and fingerprint databases; and whether they have made an assessment of whether such agencies have the capabilities and intent to gain unauthorised access now or in the future. [HL136]

Direct access to information on the National DNA database is restricted to around 35 designated personnel working for the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). Police forces do not have access to the information on the NDNAD, but receive reports from the NDNAD Delivery Unit of matches between DNA taken from crime scenes and that taken from individuals.

Security measures are applied to the NDNAD to prevent unauthorised access, whether by a foreign intelligence agency or anyone else. These measures are in accordance with HM Government policy and guidance.

Assessments with regard to the intent and capability of foreign intelligence services to access the fingerprint database are a standard part of the risk assessment and security accreditation process conducted in accordance with HM Government information assurance policy. This assessment is reviewed on an annual basis.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average cost of the police taking and testing a DNA sample. [HL282]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the capital expenditure plans for the next five years for taking, testing and storing DNA tests by the police. [HL284]

A DNA sample is biological material containing cells with a person's DNA, whereas a DNA profile is a numerical sequence stored on the National DNA database (NDNAD), which is an IT system. DNA samples can be split into two categories. Subject samples are taken from an arrested person (or in some cases from a volunteer), usually by means of a swab which picks up cells from the inside of the cheek. Crime scene samples are retrieved from material at crime scenes, for example blood, semen or saliva. Both types of sample are collected by the police and sent to an accredited forensic supplier for analysis to produce a DNA profile. The profile is then loaded onto the NDNAD where it can be compared with the other profiles held on the database. The original physical sample is retained by the forensic supplier in a secure environment. When a match occurs between profiles held on the NDNAD the relevant police force is informed.

The costs of obtaining, analysing and storing DNA samples fall to individual police forces. They vary depending on the contractual relationship between the police force and the forensic supplier, which is commercially confidential.

The NDNAD is operated by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). Capital investment plans for the NDNAD can be broadly separated into maintenance and development. Maintenance costs equate to approximately £200,000 per annum and relate to the in year costs of replacing equipment that has either failed or reached the end of its lifespan. Development costs are determined firstly by the prioritised development requirements of the NDNAD strategy board, and secondly by the available capital funds within the NPIA and their relative prioritisation across the development requirements of the police service as a whole. The NPIA is currently in the process of business planning around budget requirements over the next one to three years. Until this process is complete, precise capital expenditure plans for NDNAD development are not available.

The costs of the NDNAD in 2008-09 were £4,290,500 (this includes both capital and running costs; it is not possible to separate the two).

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many DNA tests (a) were taken last year, (b) have been taken this year, and (c) are anticipated to be taken next year, by the police. [HL283]

The figures in the table below show the number of subject profiles added to the National DNA database (NDNAD) from DNA samples taken by UK police for the years 2007-08 and 2008-09, a projected figure for the year 2009-10 and an estimated figure for the year 2010-11.

The number of subject profiles added to the NDNAD is not the same as the number of DNA samples (tests) taken. Some subject samples taken by the police may not result in a subject profile being loaded onto the NDNAD produce due to the sample being damaged or to a processing failure or the police confirming that the individual already has a profile on the database. Data on the number of DNA samples taken by the police are not available.

The number of subject profiles added to the NDNAD is not the same as the number of individuals added. A proportion of DNA profiles added to the NDNAD will be replicates, that is, a profile for a person has already been loaded (this may be because the person gave different names, or different versions of their name, on separate arrests, or because of upgrading of profiles). It is currently estimated that 13.8 per cent of subject profiles held on the NDNAD are replicates. The presence of these replicate profiles on the NDNAD does not impact on the effectiveness and integrity of the database.