Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Head to head: DNA Database

The Home Office has announced that the DNA of most innocent people arrested in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be kept for more than six years.

We asked two people who were arrested and later freed without charge, and who have their DNA profiles stored on the police database as a result, to give us their views. Should police keep their DNA fingerprints?


Sam West
Sam West is happy his DNA profile is stored, even though he is innocent

Last year I was accused of assaulting a bouncer at a casino in Newcastle.

I hadn't done it, but I spent a night in a cell until the CCTV footage was available to prove that I hadn't.

Obviously I had my DNA sampled, they took a cheek swab from me. I didn't really mind at the time.

And I have no problem with them keeping my DNA profile indefinitely.

I would have thought that the only people worried about this happening are those who think that they may be likely to commit a crime in the future.

I appreciate there is a case for "innocent until proven guilty". But if you're innocent - why worry?

I'm not bothered about my DNA helping eliminate people and to narrow down suspects
Sam West, Tunbridge Wells

And how is it a human right to be less detectable in a criminal investigation?

I suppose people worry that their records could be used as a scapegoat.

But I don't really mind at all. I'm not bothered about my DNA helping eliminate people and to narrow down suspects - people who might have committed a crime.

I remember reading about a rapist who was caught because he'd been stealing some months previously and his DNA profile matched.

Would I favour a nationwide database? I guess it could be a fairer way of doing it. I don't have such a problem with it.

But I can see how some people would be against it - as a kind of Big Brother thing.

As for capping the limit at six years, I'm not sure why? All it means is there are now fewer years when somebody's profile can be checked.

Criminals are less likely to be apprehended.


David Sweeney
David Sweeney says police treated him unfairly for being on the database

In 2004, I was attacked on my way home by two men, after which I was arrested on the charge of a affray.

My DNA was taken. But it was later proved that the police were mistaken in arresting me and no charge was brought.

I have since written to my MP several times about getting my DNA removed from the database.

I believed that police could not remain unbiased towards me or anyone on the database.

And this was confirmed two months ago.

I dropped a friend off at Manchester Airport and double parked. A foolish mistake and on returning to my car the police had arrived and given me a ticket.

They asked if I was "known to the police" and I said no, having no criminal record.

There was no separation between my DNA records and those of a violent criminal
David Sweeney, Manchester

I was already apologetic and admitted my mistake and had accepted the parking fine.

But when they then heard over the radio that I was on the DNA database, they treated me with total contempt - as if I were a serious criminal.

"You lied to us", they said. "You're on the database. So you've obviously done something wrong. What are you trying to conceal now?"

I was disgusted at how they reacted to the knowledge I was on the database.

There was no separation between my DNA records and those of a violent criminal.

This characterises my main problem with the database. Anyone who is on it, I think the police will have an inclination to see them as a criminal.

All they heard over the radio was "he's on the database". Did they know I had committed no crime? I don't think so.

I have always thought that we should either have everyone on it, or convicted criminals only.

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