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Police to keep innocents' DNA despite human rights ruling

Home Office's six-year plan

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The government is today expected to announce police will retain DNA profiles from innocent people for up to six years, following a court defeat.

The proposals have already been criticised by the human rights watchdog as not going far enough.

At present, data is retained from every person arrested for any offence forever, and only ever removed from the National DNA Database with the permission of Chief Constables.

The proposed six-year maximum retention period for innocent people replaces earlier proposals to retain profiles for up to 12 years. That policy was based on incomplete research that scientists disowned.

The Home Office was obliged to re-examine DNA retention after it lost the case of S and Marper at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last December. A panel of judges described indefinite retention of innocent people's DNA as a "blanket and indiscriminate" power.

Today's expected announcement will bring England and Wales closer into line with the ruling, but will not take account of the EHCR's concern that "data in question could be retained irrespective of the nature or gravity of the offence with which the individual was originally suspected".

In Scotland, DNA profiles are retained from innocent people for a maximum of five years, and only when they have been involved in a violent or sexual offence inquiry.

The independent Equality and Human Rights Commission has said the expected proposals do not satisfy the EHCR's ruling.

The plan will also set up a clash with the Tories, who have called for English and Welsh DNA retention policy to be brought into line with Scotland.

More than five million people are now on the National DNA Database. About a million have never been convicted of any crime. ®

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