POLICE in Wales have taken DNA samples from more than 55,000 innocent people, we can reveal.
Almost half of these – an estimated 23,651 – were taken by South Wales Police alone, costing the force a whopping £1.5m.
In total, the nation’s four police forces have spent an estimated £3.4m in gathering DNA samples from innocent people.
But, while the Government estimates that one in five people on the national DNA database are innocent of any crime, they have admitted they have NO IDEA what the real amount could be.
Since 2001, police have taken DNA samples from anyone they arrest or caution, even if no charges are brought against them. Current law allows an innocent person’s DNA profile to be kept for up to 12 years.
With an estimated 4.5 million profiles, the DNA database for England and Wales is the largest in the world, and includes adults and children as young as 10 who have been accused of such crimes as:
n Taking a bicycle without consent;
n Failing to provide a breath specimen;
n Taking part in an illegal demonstration;
n Being drunk in a public place.
Human rights campaigners Liberty called for the database to simply hold details of sexual and violent offenders, which would save millions of pounds of public money.
Liberty’s legal officer, Anna Fairclough, told Wales on Sunday: “The Government is fond of justifying its retention of innocents’ DNA with the trite phrase: ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’. Those affected do not agree. They have done no wrong and they deeply resent their DNA profiles being held alongside those of murderers and rapists.”
The figures for Wales were revealed in parliamentary questions put forward by Jenny Willott, the Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central, over a space of two years.
They reveal a massive database with DNA profiles belonging to 268,853 people in Wales, 55,922 of whom are estimated to be innocent.
In North Wales, 12,014 innocent people’s profiles were gathered by police, while Gwent collected 10,382 and Dyfed Powys took 9,875.
Ms Willott will lead a Welsh Liberal Democrat campaign to call on the chief constables of each Welsh police force to allow innocent people to have their DNA profile deleted.
Clare Hutchinson, Wales Online
In an open letter to Barbara Wilding, chief constable of South Wales Police, Ms Willott calls the database, “disproportionate, unethical, costly and ineffective”.
Speaking exclusively to Wales on Sunday, she urged people in Wales who believe they might be on the database to write to police asking for their DNA profile to be destroyed.
She said: “It is appalling that the Government is still allowing innocent people to be put on the DNA database when they know it is a blatant breach of their human rights.
“Storing the DNA of people who have never been convicted of a crime, for the rest of their life, is a violation of a founding pillar of our justice system – innocent until proven guilty.
“The Government is moving at a snail’s pace. Over 300,000 innocent people’s DNA has been added to the database since the practice was ruled illegal, including 6,000 people in South Wales.
“Those affected in South Wales should use the template letter and advice on my website to write to the Chief Constable to ask for their DNA to be removed.
“Welsh Chief Constables have the power to remove innocent people from the database and to start to restore the faith in our criminal justice system that Labour has eroded. It is now up to them.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers said the matter was for South Wales Police, who were last night unavailable for comment.