MP accuses Government of building DNA database by stealth

By Shahid Naqvi | A Tory MP whose Black Country uncle was murdered more than a year ago has accused the Government of creating a “DNA database by stealth” after police failed to return his genetic details taken during the investigation.

Greg Hands, MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, allowed detectives with West Midlands Police to take his fingerprints and swabs after widower Les Ince was found stabbed to death with a barbecue meat skewer in February 2007.

The father-of-two claims he is one of a million innocent people whose DNA is being held by the state without permission and despite no law being passed by Parliament to allow such information to be held.

West Midlands Police has promised to return his details but Mr Hands accused the force of dragging its heels due to a reluctance to let go of the information.

“I am not attacking West Midlands Police in anyway,” said the MP. “What I am saying is the Government needs to establish a set of proper procedures for keeping people’s DNA. Parliament has never approved there being a national database. We have a situation where a million people’s DNA has been taken and put on this database even if they have no connection with crime.

“I think the Government are building a national database by stealth. They are finding whatever means they can to get your DNA sample. I think that is wrong without it being properly debated in Parliament and without proper safeguards.”

Mr Hands said recent history had demonstrated Government offices could not be trusted to hold on to data in the wake of a series of high-profile security lapses with data.

Though accepting there may be good arguments for creating a national DNA database, he insisted the authorities had no powers to hold genetic information against people’s will.

“I am not necessarily against it. I would listen very carefully to the arguments. I would look at what safeguards are in place and who can access the information. But until we have a debate in Parliament it remains a grey area.

“My case has had a certain amount of publicity. But there are one million people like me who have never been charged with any crime whose DNA is being held.”

Pensioner Mr Ince, aged 80, was brutally attacked at his home in Walsall on February 21, 2007. He was found injured in an under-stairs cupboard and later died in hospital. An X-ray showed the skewer had penetrated his body.

Police believe he may have been attacked a few days before he was discovered.

Despite a £5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his attackers, police have so far made no arrests in connection with the crime.

Mr Hands said: “It is one of those murders that I think will be quite hard to solve because there is no apparent motive. My uncle as far as we are aware had no enemies in life. He was an 80-year-old man living on his own and wasn’t well off. My best guess is it was a burglary gone wrong.”

Mr Hands said “ironically” DNA samples taken at the scene of the crime could end up holding the key to solving the crime.

West Midlands Police said Mr Hands was sent a letter in June confirming his DNA samples will be removed from the national DNA database and his fingerprints returned.

“He has received correspondence saying this request will be honoured,” said a spokeswoman for the force.