As a Police Officer I have long had concerns about our ability to take DNA from people who had been arrested but not charged and convicted. I thought this is wrong and how did such a law pass through 3 readings in the Commons and Lords...didn't any of the multitude of solicitors and barristers we have as MP's and Lords of the Realms scrutinise this law?; it appears not, not even the Law Lords. Or they may well have, but decided that our right to privacy...a fundamental right was outweighed by the demands of detecting crime.
But is it really proportionate (which is what the Human Rights Act demands), to retain 850,000 DNA samples of 'innocent people' out of a total database of 5.2 million people? No its not according the European Court in a recent judgement which CONDEMNED the UK Government stating that they had been "...struck by the blanket and indiscriminate nature" of the government's powers to take and retain the DNA; a sad indictement on a country that prides itself on its liberal traditions of freedom and liberty, including that fundamental freedom not to have their privacy infringed.
You would now expect the Government to back down and start destroying these illegal samples but no they've come up with a convoluted way to avoid the Court's judgement. It basically says that it won't comply with the Court's decision as it would affect the Police's ability to detect crime and they suggest they keep the DNA profiles of innocents for between 6 to 12 years.
The other side of the story is the 41,717 crimes detected by DNA in 2006/07, which included 452 murders. But these are headline figures and what they don't say is how many of the 42,000 detections were of people convicted and how many from 'innocents'. Those are the figures that we are really interested in' and anecdotal figures suggest that the latter figure is low perhaps less than 100 and it is hard to justify keeping 850,000 profiles for 100 detections.
But there again if a loved one was one of the 100 and a murder victim, and the offender was an 'innocent' detected through the DNA database then I can well appreciate the arguments for retaining the 'innocent' samples on the database. And there have been murder cases in Wales where the offender's DNA was held on the database even though the offender wasn't convicted.
Its a hard call to make.