Take innocent people’s DNA off database, says Welsh MP

1-8001.jpgIC Wales | INNOCENT people would have their DNA taken off the Government’s controversial database under plans put forward by a Welsh MP. Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, will present a private Bill in the Commons today to reform the way the huge DNA register is run.

Almost one in 10 people in Wales have their data stored after a surge in the number of samples taken by police.

Many of those 264,420 records belong to people who have never been charged with any offence, yet they can be retained for 100 years.

More than 7,000 samples have been taken from Welsh under-16s.

Ms Willott said: “If you are not charged or you are acquitted then your DNA should be removed.

“An awful lot of people have only found out the hard way that this is not the case.”

Although the use of DNA technology has led to the clearing-up of several unsolved murders, including that of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White, killed in 1988, there are fears that the database is a breach of civil liberties.

The database is the biggest of its kind in the world, dwarfing those used — in samples per head terms — by the US and other European countries.

Ms Willott said: “People who have voluntarily given samples, say to help in a police investigation, can’t have their DNA taken off the register either, so potentially there are a lot of people affected.

“The UK really is out on a limb on this.

“We’re in a different league to other countries.

“I don’t think the public realise quite how far it’s going because it’s not very easy to find out, but I think that will change as more and more people are affected.”

She said she was not against the use of DNA as a crime-fighting tool, saying for some offences like burglary, the presence of DNA at the crime scene more than doubled the prospect of a conviction.

“But that doesn’t mean we have to hold everybody’s DNA,” she said.

“Collect the DNA from the crime scene, but don’t then hold it for 100 years. It’s a question of getting the balance right.”

Without any prospect of Government support, Ms Willott’s Bill has no chance of becoming law, but she does have supporters from all sides of the Commons, including Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the influential Home Affairs Select Committee.

Also backing the Bill is Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire Stephen Crabb, who last year highlighted the case of constituent Jeffrey Orchard, a pensioner wrongly arrested for criminal damage.

Mr Orchard, 73, had his fingerprints, photograph and DNA taken, but was cleared before the case reached court.

The database does have its backers, however. Senior judge Lord Justice Sedley said last year that everyone should be included on it.

The Government is funding an inquiry into public attitudes towards the database which is being carried out by the Human Genetics Commission, a body that advises ministers.