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DNA database - tell us what you think

7 May 2009

We're running a public consultation to get your opinions about how the government should handle DNA evidence.

The consultation – Keeping the right people on the DNA database –  suggests changes to the current guidance on how long DNA records should be kept.

Some of its suggested changes include:

  • destroying all DNA samples like mouth swabs, hair or blood as soon as they are converted into a profile
  • automatically deleting the DNA profiles of anyone arrested but not convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes after 12 years
  • automatically deleting the DNA profiles of anyone arrested but not convicted of all other crimes after six years
  • removing the DNA profiles of young people arrested but not convicted (or convicted for less serious offences) when they turn 18
  • retaining indefinitely the DNA profiles and fingerprints of anyone convicted of a recordable offence

Targeting the right people

The consultation seeks to ensure that the right people will have their records stored on the DNA database, and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the proposed changes would make sure that happened.

'It is crucial that we do everything we can to protect the public by preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice,' she said. ‘The DNA database plays a vital role in helping us do that and will help ensure that a great many criminals are behind bars where they belong.'

The consultation follows an announcement by the Home Secretary last year in which she said the rules for storing DNA must be as tough for those who commit serious crimes, but should be flexible for others – especially children.

Following that announcement, all DNA records for children less than 10 years old were taken off the database.

UK is the world leader in ‘cold cases’

DNA and forensic evidence are essential to solving crimes. The UK leads the world in developing a national DNA database, and that has helped investigators solve many older ‘cold cases’.

Between April 1998 and September 2008 more than 390,000 crimes resulted in DNA matches. This information provided the police with valuable leads on the possible identities of the criminals involved.
Over the years the database has provided a pioneering method not only for catching the guilty, but also for proving peoples' innocence.

It played a key role in helping to solve thousands of cases, including:

  • finding Mark Dixie guilty of the murder of Sally Ann Bowman in 2005
  • convicting Steve Wright for the murder of five prostitutes in 2008
  • clearing Sean Hodgson of the death of a young woman nearly 30 years after he was wrongly imprisoned

What do you think?

We'd like to know what you think about these issues.

Please take a few minutes to download and read the consultation, and if the issues involved are important to you, reply to some of the questions it asks.

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