Police DNA database ‘risks criminalising non-offenders’

By Ben Russell

People are being added to the Government’s national DNA database at the rate of more than one a minute, figures from the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

Their research showed that 547,020 profiles were added last year, the equivalent of 62 an hour, leading to claims that ministers were taking Britain into a “headlong rush” towards a surveillance state as numbers on the controversial police record topped four million.

Yesterday the Human Genetics Commission, a government-backed watchdog, launched a major inquiry into the use of DNA records by police. Due to report in the spring, it will look at the size of the DNA database, the large number of black men whose samples are recorded, and the difficulties in removing samples once they are entered into the system.

It emerged that senior police officers have warned the database might criminalise law-abiding people. Alex Marshall, Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley, said in a response to the Home Office’s review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that “extending the taking of samples to all offences may be perceived as indicative of the increasing criminalisation of the generally law-abiding citizen”.

A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: “Statistics paint a frightening picture. Black men are four times more likely than white men to have their DNA profiles stored in the police national DNA database. In the interests of fairness we would like to call for DNA profiles to be limited to those that are convicted only.”

The Home Office insists that the DNA database – the largest in the world – is a vital tool in the fight against crime. But critics warn that the system could lead to discrimination against ethnic minorities. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, who obtained the figures, said: “The Government’s onward march towards a surveillance state has now become a headlong rush. They seem determined to hoover up the DNA details of as many people as they can, regardless of guilt or innocence.”