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Tuesday, May 5, 1998 Published at 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK


Call for national DNA database
image: [ A person's DNA is their unique genetic fingerprint ]
A person's DNA is their unique genetic fingerprint

Peter Gammon tells Radio 5 Live: "We may prevent a serial rapist committing more crime" (3'30")
A senior policeman has proposed stepping up the fight against crime by taking a DNA sample from every person in Britain.

The President of the Police Superintendents' Association, Peter Gammon, wants the government to consider setting up a national DNA database to help make it easier to identify offenders.

Success in catching crooks

The call follows the success of the current database, which holds DNA information on more than 250,000 people who have been charged or convicted of recordable offences.

[ image: Forensic science is a vital part of modern police work]
Forensic science is a vital part of modern police work
In about 40% of cases where a DNA sample is taken from a crime scene a match is found from the database.

However, Mr Gammon said the time taken to collect and analyse samples from suspects after a crime is "time-consuming and can delay the progress of an investigation."

He said officers would catch crooks faster if they could compare their evidence to a pre-existing library containing the unique genetic record of every individual in Britain.

BBC correspondents say the technology exists to create such a database, but the task would take years and cost and estimated £1bn.

Civil liberties concerns

Liz Parratt, Campaigns manager for Liberty : level of balance needs to be struck between law enforcement and liberty' (2'21")
Civil liberties groups are also opposed on the grounds that it would infringe on the privacy and freedom of individuals.

Mr Gammon acknowledges these concerns. He said he would expect any national database to be introduced with "the same safeguards that already exist in relation to medical records."

[ image: Samples would have to be taken from almost 60m people]
Samples would have to be taken from almost 60m people
Concerns about the security surrounding a database have also been raised by Professor Alec Jeffries, a pioneer in developing DNA identification.

He warned: "A determined criminal might be very tempted to try to hack into such a database and alter their entry and so give them the ultimate genetic alibi for any crime they might commit."

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