DNA of thousands of innocent people held by police

MORE than ten people have their DNA recorded and stored by Redbridge Police every day, the Guardian can reveal.

A total of 3,654 samples of genetic material were taken in the borough last year – with only 368 of these subsequently being destroyed, a Freedom of Information request as found.

And 2,201 samples have been taken on under-18s since the beginning of 2006 — the vast majority of whom innocent of any crime – prompting fierce complaints from parents.

Elizabeth Canavan, 39, of Merlin Road, Aldersbrook, said she would not want any of her children’s DNA on record.

The mum-of-four said: “I think it’s a bit intrusive and there’s sort of the assumption of guilt there.

“It’s a bit Big Brother when the Government knows even your children’s intricate body chemistry.”

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last December that all DNA samples of innocent people held by police must be destroyed as holding such information “could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society”.

However, the British Government has since been fighting this ruling.

Paul Donovan, of Dangan Road, Wanstead, told the Guardian that readers were right to be concerned.

The 46-year-old said: “It seems rather worrying as it seems like they are trying to build up some sort of database of youth in the area.

“If a person is convicted of a crime then the police should be able to keep their DNA on record for a specific time but if the charges are dropped or they are found innocent in a court of law then these records must be destroyed.

“Again, it’s the creeping hand of the Big Brother state. We all want to be safer but it’s the old equation of give us your liberty and we’ll give you security and it depends how much liberty we are willing to part with.

“The basic assumption in this country is that you are innocent until proven guilty and this is heading towards the other way around. We shouldn’t be lying back and taking it.”

Borough Commander Chief Supt Peter Terry said: “Since its introduction DNA has provided the police with approximately 400,000 leads to the possible identity of offenders.

“In 2007 — 2008 over 17,000 crimes were detected in which a DNA match was available.

“People cannot be arrested purely to obtain DNA and although samples obtained following arrest can help detect crimes, we do not actively seek to obtain DNA for this purpose.

“These figures relate to all DNA that has been taken on the borough, not just from Redbridge residents or indeed for Redbridge crimes.”

Charlie Campbell