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Home Office defends DNA practice

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The Home Office has insisted that details from the National DNA Database are not being misused by commercial companies.

This follows a report in The Observer that LGC, a company that analyses DNA samples to help populate the database, has been retaining the details. This includes names, ages, skin colour and address.

In response, the Home Office issued a statement saying: "Forensic science companies do not have their own 'DNA database'. The companies who provide forensic services to the police do store forensic samples and retain records on completion of analysis, in case the samples need to be re-examined in future. All of this stored information remains the property of the police.

"Companies have been issued with strict guidance that instructs providers that this information cannot be used for any purpose other than for populating the National DNA Database or in response to a specific and formal request by the police.

"The National DNA strategy board would not approve research unless there were clear potential operational benefits to the police in terms of detecting and/or solving crime."

The details are only made available to the police or for research approved by the Home Office. This has prompted the pressure group Genewatch to claim the management of the database is "out of control".

Its deputy director, Dr Helen Wallace, said: "It is deeply disturbing that companies conducting DNA analysis for the police can keep copies of this sensitive information. This makes a mockery of claims that access to and uses of the database are tightly restricted and controlled.

"At least 19 projects have been approved since 2000. Most of the research was conducted by the Forensic Science Service (FSS), which the government plans to partially privatise. However, despite numerous requests for information, the list of research projects is still incomplete and, in addition, the decision making process is inadequate and unclear."

The DNA database is the largest is the world with almost 3m samples. Police are allowed to retain DNA from anyone arrested in England and Wales whether or not they are convicted of a crime.

Genewatch has called for changes in the law, claiming that it goes much further than in any other country, and pointing out that the Scottish Parliament recently rejected proposals to retain the details of people who were not convicted.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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