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Home Office minister invites DNA database debate

As records hit four million

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Home Office minister Meg Hillier has insisted on the need to debate the future of the National DNA Database.

Responding to parliamentary questions from two Conservative MPs, Hillier said the growth of the database, which now holds records of more than four million people, has made a debate on its future development necessary.

Tory MP Stephen Crabb asked Hillier if she "understood the enormous extent to which good will and support for the police and for her department are being undermined by a system in which DNA information is being recorded aggressively, but removed in a haphazard way and on a discretionary basis, dependent on police force area".

He highlighted the case of 75 year old Geoffrey Orchard, who was wrongfully arrested and received a written apology from the police, but who remains unable to get his DNA information removed from the system.

Hitting back, Hillier claimed the database had been used to solve 452 homicides, 644 rapes, and more than 8,000 domestic burglaries. She also stressed the fact that a person's DNA was held on the database was not an indication of guilt.

But a spokesperson for human rights pressure group Liberty said by holding the records of non-convicted individuals, the database creates a stigma of guilt.

She told GC News: "Liberty is very concerned about the effect of the national DNA database on young people, in particular, the estimated 100,000 under-18s whose DNA samples are being held despite the fact that they have not been cautioned or charged with any offence. This creates a stigma of guilt which is unwarranted and could lead to problems for individuals later in life."

In September this year, appeal court judge Lord Sedley put forward the case for the compulsory retrieval and storage of every citizen's DNA record.

Asked whether she agreed with Sedley's proposal, Hillier insisted the government had no plans for a universal database, and invited a debate on its future.

"Because it has grown to include more than four million people, it is important that we get the chance to debate how we proceed," the minister said. "I have already asked officials to look at the design of the forms on which people give their permission – if they have given it voluntarily – for that information to remain permanently on the database."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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