Britain has the world's biggest DNA database

Britain invented DNA "fingerprinting" to capture criminals back in the early 1980's (the murderer of two young girls, Colin Pitchfork, was the first man to be caught by the police using this procedure in 1986) and it now has, by far, the world's largest DNA database.

Critics just say it's another case of Big Brother Britain back in action, with Britain already having the world's largest amount of CCTV cameras (10% of the world's 30 million), but Ministers said the huge expansion in DNA gathering, started by Tony Blair in 1999, would bring to justice tens of thousands of criminals who otherwise have remained at large.

Big Brother Britain has world's biggest DNA database
by JAMES SLACK, Daily Mail

5th January 2006

Stored: A DNA sample

More people in Britain have had their DNA stored by the police than in any other country in the world, it has emerged.

By 2008, the state will have access to the genetic data of 4.25million - or one citizen in 14.

Hundreds of thousands of those on the database - which already contains three million names - will never have been charged with a crime.

Last night, critics warned of grave infringements on civil liberties and the danger of the Government selling the highly valuable information to insurers and mortgage companies.

The current total of three million names, or 5 per cent of the population, is the highest in the world. It outstrips even the second on the list - Austria - by FIVE TO ONE. More than 700,000 ten to 17-year-olds are on the British database - one in every ten in that age group.

But Ministers said the huge expansion in DNA gathering, started by Tony Blair in 1999, would bring to justice tens of thousands of criminals who otherwise have remained at large.

Those trapped to date include hundreds of murderers and rapists, Home Office Minister Andy Burnham said.

Previously, police could only take the DNA of those charged with a crime - and it had to be immediately destroyed if the prosecution was dropped of if they were cleared in court.

But in 2000, under the instruction of the Prime Minister, this rule was swept away so officers no longer had to erase any data.

And in 2004 the power to take DNA was extended to cover anybody arrested - regardless of whether they were later charged or not.

Net cast wider

Four days ago, the net was cast even wider when every crime was made arrestable - including dropping litter, driving in a bus lane or not wearing a seatbelt.

Last year, 113,000 people arrested but not charged with a crime were added to the database. The total is 140,000.

Of the three million currently logged on the database a further 200,000 were charged but not prosecuted, or were cleared by the courts.

Police can use the giant computer system to check DNA against any hair, blood, sweat or other sample left at a crime scene.

It could also be used to trap a family member who has committed a crime, if it is strikingly similar - but not identical - to that left at an unsolved crime scene.


However last night, there was concern that innocent people's DNA was being added to the store in massive numbers.

Tory home affairs shadow Damian Green said: "If the Government wants a database which has the details of everyone, not just criminals, they should be honest about it."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Lynne Featherstone, said: "This is an intolerable infringement of liberty and personal privacy.

"There is no purpose or justification for keeping the DNA record of anyone who is not charged with an offence.

"We cannot be absolutely certain that there will be no misuse of the DNA database. There are no real safeguards in place to control it."

Phil Booth, of the civil liberties campaign group NO2ID warned the Government could be tempted to sell the data to insurers and mortgage companies.

It could be used to ramp up premiums or reject loan applications.

Mr Booth added: "There are all sorts of ways in which this could be commercially usable. When Government spending spirals out of control, what is to stop them selling the data to recoup some of their costs?"

Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty, said: "No one should confuse the use of well targeted DNA information with a monster DNA database containing the details of every man, woman and child in the UK."

But Mr Burnham said the Government would never contemplate selling information from the database.

The law-abiding had nothing to fear, he said, as it would allow them to prove their innocence.

"This will deliver serious benefits. It will put people behind bars who have done horrendous crimes who would otherwise have not been punished," he said.

"Yes, it is a lot of data and a lot to hold, but it is of enormous value to the police."

Direct detections of a crime using DNA more than doubled from 8,612 in 1999-2000 to 19,873 in 2004-05. There were also a further 15,732 crimes detected as a result of further investigations linked to the original case in which DNA was recovered.
The government getting more and more into people's lives.
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