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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Global DNA plan 'worth exploring'
DNA
More than two million DNA samples are in the UK database
A top UK police officer has said there is "value in exploring" the possibility of an international DNA database.

John Dickinson, the father of murdered schoolgirl Caroline, has called for the setting up of such a database.

Her killer, Spaniard Francisco Arce Montes, had attacked women in the US and Europe over a number of years.

Police Superintendents' Association chief Rick Naylor said national forces could "work more co-operatively" to utilise "all the technology available".

'Value'

Chief Superintendent Naylor said cases where UK police might want DNA information from officers in other countries are rare.

There would have to be international agreement across all the nations with DNA databases for that sort of information to flow freely
Chief Superintendent Rick Naylor
But he added: "There is always value in exploring any ways that we can solve crime, whether that be nationally or internationally.

"There may be a case for saying, on the back of this tragic crime, that national forces need to work more cooperatively together and use all the technology available to them."

Mr Naylor said UK officers currently had to have a "very, very good reason" to seek DNA information from police overseas.

It had to be a very serious crime, and there had to be evidence suggesting the suspect was a national of the other country or had come to the attention of its authorities, he said.

"There would have to be international agreement across all the nations with DNA databases for that sort of information to flow freely. There isn't that level of agreement at the moment, to my knowledge."

The Home Office told BBC News Online that the Data Protection Act and the European Court of Human Rights considerations had to be fully taken into account before DNA profile information could be released overseas.

Interpol have already set up a prototype DNA database system which countries have only just started to add profiles to.

But an international database is only is only one of the possible ways of sharing DNA information internationally.

"A valid alternative would be to create a single library or repository able to search databases around the world - just like an internet search engine, rather than having one vast library or pass data between each other," a Home Office spokesman said.

Luck

Caroline Dickinson's killer was charged after DNA from the murder scene was matched five years later to Montes, being held in the US over sex offences.

John Dickinson
John Dickinson has called for a global DNA database
But the connection was only made because a US immigration officer holidaying in the UK read about Caroline's case in a newspaper and recalled Montes' arrest for a similar offence.

Mr Dickinson has said that murderers and rapists could "simply disappear from one country to another in the belief they will not be traced by DNA".

"We must work together to make sure these people cannot escape the justice they should face up to," he said.

The UK database, set up in 1995 by the Forensic Science Service (FSS), was the world's first national DNA database.

Laws currently allow samples to be taken from anyone suspected of, charged with, reported for or convicted of a recordable offence.

'Cutting edge'

The FSS said the database now holds around 2.2 million people's DNA profiles, plus some 225,000 samples from crime scenes.

In an average month, DNA matches are found linking suspects to 15 murders, 45 rapes and other sex offences, and 2,500 motor vehicle, property and drug crimes, the FSS said.

"The British police service are at the cutting edge of DNA technology," Mr Naylor said.

But the Police Superintendents' Association is campaigning for a universal and compulsory DNA database in the UK.

"It would give the police the major tool in detecting crime, and preventing it because it would raise the likelihood that people would be detected - imagine that as a deterrent," Mr Naylor said.

He said DNA testing had been "the major advance in crime investigation since fingerprints. We just need to exploit the technology".




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