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Home Office to keep innocent DNA samples

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The Home Office has rejected European Court of Human Rights demands that innocent people should not have their DNA stored on the national database.

Instead samples from people arrested for, but not convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes, will be removed after 12 years. The DNA profiles of those arrested but not convicted for minor offences will be kept for six years.

The law will be changed to retrospectively add all prisoners serving time for serious violent or sexual offences to the database. Police will also get the right to take samples from people convicted of serious crimes while abroad.

The changes have been made in response to a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The judges said they were struck by "the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the power of retention in England and Wales". In Scotland different rules are followed - only those convicted of serious offences get put on the database. The Home Office agreed in December to remove profiles taken from children under the age of ten.

The police will additionally be asked to trawl through innocent DNA profiles, 850,000 of them, to try and link them to existing records on the Police National Computer, The Guardian reports.

Jacqui Smith said: "These new proposals will ensure that the right people are on it, as well as considering where people should come off. We will ensure that the most serious offenders are added to the database no matter when or where they were convicted."

The case was brought by two men from Sheffield who wanted their profiles removed.

Actual DNA samples will now be destroyed as soon as they are converted into profiles. Children arrested but not convicted for minor offences will have their profiles destroyed when they turn 18.

All those convicted of an offence recorded on the Police National Computer, from prostitution to taking a pedal cycle without consent, will have their DNA profile and fingerprints stored forever.

The big question is if Jacqui's tweaks to the database will be enough to satisfy the European courts. ®

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