Britain under fire over DNA database plans

Thu May 7, 2009 6:09am EDT
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The British government, regularly accused of keeping its citizens under excessive surveillance, has now come under fire over its national DNA database of arrested people.

Civil liberties groups and opposition parties accused ministers on Thursday of not going far enough to scale back the database in response to a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last year.

The court ruled that the current UK policy of storing indefinitely the genetic fingerprint of everyone who is arrested is unlawful.

The Home Office (interior ministry) has set out new rules for the retention of records in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Its public consultation document -- "Keeping the right people on the DNA database" -- aims to trim up to 850,000 profiles from a total of 4.5 million records, officials estimate.

But under the plans, the DNA records of those who are not convicted will be deleted after a period of up to 12 years, and that, say critics, is far too long.

The proposals are at odds with the rules in Scotland where most DNA records are deleted after three years unless there is a conviction.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the database played a vital role in helping to ensure that criminals were kept behind bars.   Continued...