Page last updated at 07:04 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Rape conviction 'backs DNA case'

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William Bates was arrested in 2007 after police matched DNA taken from him six years earlier.

A rapist jailed 19 years after his crime might never have been caught if time limits on DNA retention had been in place, it is claimed.

Under the latest proposal the DNA of people arrested but not convicted should only be held for six years.

Last year, William Bates was convicted of raping a woman in a Sunderland park in 1990, after he was traced using DNA taken in an arrest for assault in 2001.

Northumbria Police said his case highlighted the need to retain DNA.

Bates, 41, of Titchfield Avenue, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, left small amounts of DNA after dragging his victim into Sunderland's Barnes Park and raping her on 12 June, 1990.

Detectives were only able to put this evidence into the United Kingdom DNA database in 2007 following technological advancements.

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The samples were then matched to a swab sample given after his 2001 arrest for assault, for which he was never charged.

Northumbria Police's Operation Phoenix team then moved to arrest him for rape.

He was later jailed for nine years following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Det Ch Supt Chris Thomson, head of Northumbria Police's professional standards unit, worked on the original rape inquiry as a detective.

He told the BBC's Inside Out programme that placing time limits on the holding of DNA could leave victims without justice.

He said: "I think (ministers) have to think very carefully about the feedback they get from cases like Operation Phoenix and think very carefully before they implement measures that might actually prevent us from getting important detections for very serious crimes."

The European Court ruled last year that the system in England and Wales breached basic rights because it allowed police to retain indefinitely the DNA samples of anyone arrested in an investigation, even if they were neither charged nor convicted.

The Home Office last week unveiled a package of measures to go before Parliament to address the court's judgement.



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