Record increase in DNA database

More than 722,000 samples were added to the National DNA Database last year – a record increase for one year.

The database has samples from some 4m people and is the world’s largest per head of population, the National Policing Improvement Agency said.

Its report concluded that DNA was proving to be most helpful in solving crimes such as burglary.

In 2006-7 more than 44,000 samples from crime scenes had matched suspects’ DNA on the database, it said.

The database does not hold information on whether those on it have committed any offence. Criminal data is stored on the Police National Computer.

On record

Under current laws, the database holds DNA records from suspects arrested in England and Wales, regardless of whether they are subsequently charged or convicted.

And innocent people who volunteer to give a DNA sample during a police inquiry also have their details kept on record.

The agency said in its first annual report that 3.8 million different individuals were “represented” on the database at the end of March 2007.

Of those, 79.6% were men, 41% aged 15-24 and 8% were samples from children aged 14 and under, the annual report said.

The new figures also showed that the number of samples taken from crime scenes dropped by 20% during the year.

Just over 55,200 new crime scene sample profiles were added in 2006-07 compared with 68,774 in 2005-06 – due to a drop in the number of burglary and theft offences.

Detection rate

The report said that DNA “makes a relatively small contribution” to the total number of detections.

But it “makes a powerful contribution to those cases in which it is available,” the report stated, adding that while the overall domestic burglary detection rate was 17%, it rose to 39% where DNA was retrieved from crime scenes.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The report reflects the real and significant contribution the agency has already made to improving policing effectiveness and the service it delivers to the public.”

The database has been the subject of criticism over its inclusion of DNA samples from children and those who were not convicted of any crime.

The Home Office said in August that the profiles of an estimated 39,095 10 to 17-year-olds who “had not been convicted, cautioned, received a final warning/reprimand and had no charge pending against them” were on the database.