Police failed to process DNA samples linked to violent crimes

Press Association

A London police force failed to submit DNA samples, including those linked to violent crime, rape and a murder, to the national database, a report published today has revealed.

The joint investigation by Dame Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, and Denis O’Connor, chief inspector of constabulary said it was unclear why a small number of samples linked to more serious offences were not properly processed.

Their inspection visit to police custody units in Hackney, east London, revealed that designated detention officers “operated an effective and efficient system of processing detainee DNA samples in custody fridges and freezers”.

But the report said that some samples held in a freezer and fridge in the CID general office at Shoreditch had not been submitted to the national database.

“There was only a small number of these, but they were linked to more serious offences.”

“The samples included some linked to violent crimes, rape and homicide, although the homicide sample appeared to have been taken and dealt with by an investigation squad not based in the borough,” the report said.

In Stoke Newington, another freezer was found to contain DNA samples taken in February, June, July and November last year that had not been sent to the database or disposed of.

Other areas of concern raised by the inspection included a “limited awareness” among custody staff of the needs of juveniles and women.

“This inspection of custody suites in Hackney identified some good practice, but also a number of areas for improvement,” the chief inspectors said.

“In particular, staff need to be properly trained for their tasks, not least to ensure appropriate recognition of the needs of the diverse range of detainees who pass through the suites.”

A Metropolitan police spokesman said: “In what was an overall positive report into custody suites on Hackney borough, the HMIC [HM Inspectorate of Constabulary] raised some concerns about the retention of a small number of DNA samples.

“The HMIC did not make any specific recommendations and we are satisfied that no investigation was compromised; however Hackney borough acknowledge the comments and has, as a result, reviewed its supervision of the DNA-retention process.”

In January a similar joint inspection found DNA samples were left in a police fridge at a custody suite run by Leicestershire constabulary for more than a year instead of being processed.

Forensic material linked to sexual offences dating back more than two years was also left in storage.

The inspectors criticised “serious deficiencies” in the storage and management of DNA and forensic samples in the force’s custody suites. They discovered a swab with a blood sample on it left in an open bag.

A home affairs select committee report published in March suggested only 3,666 crimes were detected every year that had links to an existing DNA profile, but warned that it was difficult to be sure the figure, which was calculated by the pressure group Genewatch, was accurate.

Senior police officers told the committee that about 33,000 crimes were solved using DNA matches. The committee said many of those would be solved without a national database.