Human rights fears over DNA

Police forces in East Anglia have continued to add thousands of innocent people to DNA databases, despite a European ruling aimed at preventing the controversial practice.

Police forces in East Anglia have continued to add thousands of innocent people to DNA databases, despite a European ruling aimed at preventing the controversial practice.

Almost 1,000 innocent people in Norfolk have been added to the database - and only six removed - since December when a European court found indiscriminate retention of DNA profiles and fingerprints of people arrested, but never convicted, was a breach of their rights.

During the same period, only nine people in Suffolk and five in Cambridgeshire have successfully applied to have their details removed, far outstripped by the numbers added.

Those on the database include cases of wrongful arrest, mistaken identity or false allegations. In order to be removed, individuals must provide evidence of exceptional circumstances.

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Despite criticism from civil liberties campaigners, forces continue to resist the ruling as the Home Office is accused of delaying a change in the law. A spokesman for Norfolk police last night insisted the force would continue to retain profiles of innocent people until told otherwise.

Official guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers endorses the continued retention of the details. But the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned this stance could result in legal challenges.

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John Wadham, the commission's legal director, said: "We can see no reason now why ACPO should not change its guidance. The commission recognises that ACPO had been put in a difficult position by the government by this issue, which is why we are offering them the opportunity now to amend their advice and avert future legal action.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “This is a flagrant abuse of the court's ruling and there's a sense that the government and the police forces themselves just aren't taking this seriously enough.

“There is a suspicion that this is all part of a creeping tendency for more state control of personal information. But this has to be accompanied by a healthy mistrust of how that information is handled and stored as there is an anxiety that the state is utterly incompetent when it comes to personal data.”

The Home Office has indicated it was preparing to back down having previously proposed tweaking the law to introduce a 12-year retention period. It promised revised legislation later this year.

There are now a total of 64,000 Norfolk profiles on the database with the government estimating that 20pc of people included are innocent. This is the equivalent of 13,300 profiles in total in the county.

A Norfolk police spokesman said that DNA profiles are taken at the point of arrest and any removal has to be authorised by ACPO's crime recording office

He added: “We continue to adhere to existing laws on DNA retention while the government consults on a legislative response.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We have now completed a public consultation on proposals to ensure the right people are on the database as well as considering when people should come off.

“Those proposals were grounded in the research and allowed us to respond to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights both swiftly and effectively.

“The government will take the most expedient route to address the issue as soon as possible in order to comply with the European Court's judgment.”

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