Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK


Automatic DNA tests 'cut crime'

Lothian and Borders Police has begun blanket DNA testing

A police force which is the first in the UK to introduce automatic DNA testing for suspects says the scheme is proving a massive success.

Lothian and Borders Police says people arrested for all but the most minor of offences are being asked to give a sample of DNA.

BBC Scotland reporter David Nisbet: "DNA testing is proving effective"
It is hailing the scheme as an effective weapon in its fight against crime, with detection rates up by 150% since testing began.

A spokesman said the scheme was given the go-ahead by Chief Constable Sir Roy Cameron at the beginning of July.

He explained that anyone arrested and taken to a police station will have to give a DNA sample, but he stressed that it would not apply to the most minor breach of the peace or motoring offences.

[ image: Sir Roy Cameron: Gave go-ahead]
Sir Roy Cameron: Gave go-ahead
Detective Superintendent Pat Byrne said that after a number of falls in the level of crime, it had risen again last year, and the force was determined not to let it spiral out of control.

"Say your house was broken into and my officers went to the scene and they found evidence like blood or saliva - a DNA profile can be obtained from that and compared against known offenders who are on record," he said.

"If you are an innocent person you have nothing to fear, it is only upon conviction that your DNA sample is recorded upon the database.

"If you are acquitted or found not guilty your sample, fingerprints and photograph is destroyed."

Detective Superintendent Pat Byrne: "If you are innocent you have nothing to fear."
In England and Wales, samples are taken for only the most serious offences.

But news of the far-reaching measure provoked anger from civil liberties groups.

The Scottish Human Rights Centre said it conceded the value of DNA testing, but was worried about the safeguards in place for this scheme.

The organisation's spokesman, John Scott, said: "The powers the police are exercising should only be used in relation to very serious offenders and only in a situation where the police can properly justify it.

[ image: DNA testing is now commonplace]
DNA testing is now commonplace
"It appears they are attempting to extend use of their powers almost by the back door."

Derek Ogg QC, a specialist in civil liberties cases, said the scheme could not be justified.

He believes if suspects do not have to give a statement after being arrested they should not be forced to provide a DNA sample.

The force introduced the scheme after recording an increase in house break-ins and car-related crime earlier in the year.

A saliva swab is used to obtain the DNA from suspects which is destroyed if they are released without charge.

Each of the samples are then matched with material found at crime scenes.

Advances in technology have enabled police forensic scientists to make a DNA match on evidence as small as a single hair or a piece of dandruff.

In the past only a sample of blood would do.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

27 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
DNA hides spy message

27 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
'Working draft' of human genome by 2000

28 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
New DNA weapon in fight against crime

Internet Links

Lothian and Borders Police

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online