The Surveillance Society report: DNA discussions

1-8002.jpgBy Anthony Hildebrand | The report recognises the National DNA Database as a “valuable investigative tool, particularly in relation to police efforts to solve older cases”

“But the sensitive nature of the information which may be yielded by DNA heightens the degree of responsibility borne by the Government,” it says. “The Home Office must work with the National Policing Improvement Agency and the police to set and observe a regulatory framework which protects individuals from unnecessary invasions of privacy and loss or unauthorised use of their genetic material and information gleaned from it.

“The Home Office should actively support the NPIA in its efforts to reduce the rate of replication on the NDNAD. Inaccuracies in the information on the database must be corrected to enable the police and the public to reap the full benefit of the NDNAD.”

The report is in favour of the Government’s assurances that the National DNA Database won’t be used to “correlate particular genetic characteristics with propensity to commit crime” — genetic profiling, in other words.

“We recommend that the Home Office renew this assurance in conjunction with the Government’s conclusions on the review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act,” the report says. “We recommend that the Home Office make public at the earliest stage any plans to revisit this issue. “

It says that Government consultations on the issue should be transparent, and help to clarify “the purposes and processes of DNA collection and retention”.

“There have been calls for an expansion of the National DNA Database to include profiles connected with non-recordable offences and for a ‘universal database’ and for the Government to reconsider its policy on retaining the profiles of those who have been arrested but not charged,” the report says.

“In order to facilitate a full debate and an appropriate level of Parliamentary scrutiny we recommend that alongside any conclusions of the PACE review the Government introduce primary legislation to replace the current regulatory framework for the National DNA Database. We recommend that this legislation provide for a more accessible mechanism by which individuals can challenge the decision to retain their records on the Database.

“The Government should reconsider the ways in which National DNA database information is collected, handled stored and transferred,” it continues.

“In particular we recommend that in order to minimise the data held, the Home Office and the police should review the identifiers used for samples and the policy of retaining samples.”