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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 05:02 GMT
DNA database Big Brother warning
Measures safeguarding privacy are already in place, the Home Office says
Ministers are facing a call to act to safeguard people's privacy against Big Brother-style intrusion from the police's national DNA database.

GeneWatch UK said both communist and fascist governments in Europe had used personal records to oppress people.

Changes could be made to safeguard privacy without compromising the use of DNA in fighting crime, its report said.

The Home Office said measures were in place to restrict use of the database to crime probes and prosecutions.

But GeneWatch argued the database creates a permanent list of "suspects" which includes anyone arrested for a recordable offence even if they are never charged.

Independent body call

The organisation urged the creation of an independent body to oversee the database.

And it called for people's DNA samples to be destroyed on completion of an investigation.

Expanding the database to include the whole population would give the potential to create a "future police state".

Spokeswoman Dr Helen Wallace said: "Controls on the database must be tightened to prevent a Big Brother state.

Important changes?

"Within living memory, both fascist and communist governments in Europe have used personal records as a means of oppressing different populations.

"There are important changes that can be made to safeguard privacy and rights without compromising the use of DNA in fighting crime."

A Home Office spokeswoman said careful consideration would be given to GeneWatch's report but there were no plans to introduce a universal DNA database or widen access for commercial reasons.

She added: "The national DNA database has proved to be an extremely effective tool in the fight against crime."

Legal scrutiny had already been given to rules that allowed the retention of DNA samples and profiles to be taken from people who had been arrested but not convicted, she added.

GeneWatch UK describes itself as "a not-for-profit group that monitors developments in genetic technologies from a public interest, environmental protection and animal welfare perspective".

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