UK world leader in use of DNA

New Home Office figures estimate that by 2008, the samples of some 4.2 million people – 7% of the UK population – will be contained on a central criminal database, which is growing by about half a million a year.

Proportionately the database is 50 times the size of the French equivalent. The next largest is in Austria, where less than 1% of the population is included. The coverage in Germany and America, is half of that.

_906538_dna_300.jpgLegal changes are now allowing the DNA taken from people who are acquitted, or arrested and questioned but never charged – or even cautioned – to be retained indefinitely. Official figures show the base has 125,000 profiles of people arrested but never charged or cautioned. In the past, this DNA would have been destroyed.

Opposition parties and civil liberties campaigners complained that the database has effectively become a “permanent list of suspects” containing the DNA of thousands of people who may have done nothing wrong.

“We cannot be absolutely certain that there will be no misuse of the DNA database. There are no real safeguards to control it,” said Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat spokesman.

Ministers have discussed extending sampling to non-criminal areas. The Health Department asked the Human Genetics Commission to consider whether it would be practical to take the DNA of all babies at birth but was advised against this on cost and ethical grounds. But the issue is still “open”.

Via The Telegraph.