Civil liberties campaigners accused the Government last
night of compiling a national DNA database "by stealth" as police
prepared to enter the two millionth profile into the system.
The number held has doubled in two years and a further million are due
to be added in the coming year.
Police powers to keep DNA samples have been strengthened considerably since
2001 when they were first allowed to keep the information indefinitely
from suspects who were not convicted.
The new Criminal Justice Bill now before Parliament extends this rule to
people who are arrested but never charged.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said the importance of DNA profiling
to criminal detection outweighed the civil liberties objections.
"The DNA and fingerprint databases have become vital weapons in law
enforcement, making our communities safer by helping to put thousands of
repeat criminals behind bars," he said ahead of a lecture in London
on advances in police technology.
"Every week our national DNA database matches over 1,000 DNA profiles
taken from crime scenes with names on the database. Around 42 per cent
of those matches are turned into detections within an average of 14 days.
That is a huge achievement."
In 1998-99 there were 21,329 DNA matches and 6,151 detections. In the year
to last April, there were 49,913 matches leading to 21,098 detections.
The Home Office said that although only a quarter of all crimes were detected,
this rises to one third where DNA has been loaded to the database.
Gareth Crossman, a spokesman for Liberty, the civil rights group, said:
"The Government is hell-bent on creating a national DNA database by
"It claims that only criminals will be listed, yet is passing legislation
so DNA samples will be retained indefinitely for anyone who is ever arrested,
whether guilty or innocent."
Mr Crossman said academics had warned that DNA evidence was not foolproof
and could result in unsafe convictions.
John Reid, the new Health Secretary, said this week he had asked the Government's
genetics watchdog to consider the case for DNA screening of every newborn
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2003.