Plans to help people remove their DNA profile from the National DNA database have been backed by the House of Lords.
The National DNA database holds DNA records from people arrested on suspicion of certain crimes and those who volunteer to give samples during police inquiries.
Once taken, DNA and fingerprints taken in England and Wales are held indefinitely and do not have to be destroyed, regardless of whether the person is charged or convicted of a crime. DNA profiles from some people detained in Northern Ireland and Scotland and also held, but in Scotland profiles of innocent people are deleted after a time.
Under current rules chief police officers can delete information from the database on request in ‘exceptional cases.’ But police guidelines also suggest officers should ignore requests for DNA to be removed in the first instance and only act if the person persists.
The government maintains the database is necessary for fighting crime, but human rights campaigners claim the government is trying to set up a comprehensive national database by the back door.
House of Lords peers backed a Conservative party amendment to the counter-terrorism bill calling for guidelines to help people seeking to have their details removed from the database.
The UK has the largest police DNA database in the world with more than four million people’s profiles on file.
The Government set up the Ethics Committee of the National DNA Database to look into ethical issues involved in building and maintaining the database. It has previously reported innocent people’s DNA samples should be deleted at the end of an investigation.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is expected to rule this year on a case which will test the right of the Government to hold on to innocent people’s samples.
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