A massive expansion in the Government’s DNA database has brought fewer than a thousand criminals to justice, it was revealed last night. For every 800 DNA samples being added by the police – including those taken from innocent people – only one crime is being solved.The revelation undermines Labour’s case for the expansion of the controversial database, which contains the details of more than a million innocent people.
Ministers claim storing samples taken from those who are never convicted or charged has proved a crucial weapon in the fight against crime.
But figures to be published in the annual DNA database report, due later
this month, will show a huge increase in the size of the database has had very little impact on the number of offences being solved.
In 2006/7 661,433 samples were added – which amounts to 75 genetic records being created every hour.
But the number of crimes detected
using the DNA entries increased by only 839 from 2005/6, to 41,148. It is the equivalent of only one extra crime being solved for every 788 new samples entered on the database.
Opponents said it was proof that holding on to the DNA records of people who had done nothing wrong was not the answer. Questions were also raised about whether the database is providing value for money. Storing more than 660,000 extra samples last year cost around £3million – or £3,575 for each extra crime detected.
The cash could have provided training, equipment and salaries for 60 extra police officers.
Phil Booth, of the NO2ID civil liberties campaign, said: “This utterly blows away the myth that the DNA database is the perfect detection tool. It is, in fact, creating-a nation of suspects.”
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: “This demonstrates that the Government’s arbitrary and haphazard approach to the DNA database has done little to make the public safer.
“The Government should answer our call to take a more focused approach – putting the database on statutory footing, and targeting those who have committed crime.
“It is absurd that, on the one hand, there are over a million innocent people on the DNA database, yet on the other hand the government does not hold the records of every serious offender in our jails or terrorist suspects subject to control orders.”
The database, which has been expanding since 2000 and is the biggest in the world, contains 4.5million samples. There are 150,000 children aged 16 or under on the system, with another 334,000 aged between 16 and 18.
In the past, police could take DNA samples only from suspects who were charged with a criminal offence and these were destroyed if they were subsequently cleared or a prosecution dropped.
But under reforms introduced in 2000 officers no longer have to erase innocent people’s entries.
A further change in 2004 gave police the power to take DNA swabs from anyone arrested for a recordable crime, which includes minor public order offences.
Ministers are awaiting a European Court of Human Rights ruling on the inclusion of innocent people’s details against their will.
Two British men argue their human rights have been infringed by the decision to keep their details on the database.
Michael Marper and an unnamed teenager, both from Sheffield, had their DNA and fingerprints taken after they were arrested in 2001 but neither was convicted. If they win the appeal, up to 560,000 samples could be destroyed.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The DNA database has revolutionised the way the police can protect the public through identifying offenders and securing more convictions.
“It is a key intelligence tool, providing the police with on average around 3,500 matches each month. The number of matches more than doubled between 1998/99 and 2006/07.”