Police arresting people "just for the DNA"

Tue Nov 24, 2009 4:44am EST
 
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By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has built the world's biggest DNA database without proper political debate and police routinely arrest people just to get their DNA profiles onto the system, the genetics watchdog said in a report on Tuesday.

The Human Genetics Commission, which advises the government on the social, legal and ethical aspects of genetics, called for a review of the database and said new laws must be passed to govern its use.

In a damning report, the commission said "function creep" had transformed the system from a DNA store for offenders into a database of suspects.

More than three-quarters of young black men aged between 18 and 35 are on the system, the report said.

Set up in 1995, the database contains the DNA profiles of five million citizens, eight percent of the population, making it the world's biggest in proportion to population size.

"Parliament has never formally debated the establishment of the National DNA Database and safeguards around it," commission chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery said in a statement.

"It has developed through amendments to laws designed to regulate the taking of fingerprints and physical evidence before DNA profiling was developed.

"It is not clear how far holding DNA profiles on a central database improves police investigations."   Continued...