Page last updated at 21:15 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 22:15 UK

Ministers warned over DNA plans

Scientist examining DNA sequence
The government says DNA profiles are an important crime-fighting tool

The government has been warned it faces defeat in the House of Lords over its plans to hold almost a million people's DNA profiles for up to 12 years.

Conservative Baroness Hanham said holding DNA when there had been no prosecution was "quite unacceptable".

DNA profiles of anyone arrested in the UK, apart from Scotland, have been kept indefinitely, regardless of conviction.

But in December the European Court of Human Rights ruled that holding the DNA of innocent people was unlawful.

The Policing and Crime Bill, which includes provisions that would allow the home secretary to make regulations to bring about the changes to the database, received its second reading in the Lords earlier.

'Major principle'

The government plans to hold DNA profiles of those cleared of crimes - or never even charged - for six years, except in cases of serious violent or sexual offences when they will be retained for 12.

The details of about 4.5 million people are currently held with around one in five of them not having a current criminal record.

However the government was warned to expect defeats if changes were not made at later stages.

Retention of DNA samples from people who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime is wrong
Baroness Hanham

Liberal Democrat peer Lady Miller complained that "issues of major principle" - such as the retention of DNA samples and fingerprints - had not been debated at an earlier stage.

"We will be joining with the other opposition party here to remedy what we see as many of the deficiencies in that part of the Bill that addresses that important issue," she said.

For the Tories, Lady Hanham said she was confident there would be "strong cross-party consensus" on the DNA issue.

She said: "Retention of DNA samples from people who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime is wrong.

"There is much in the government's proposals, such as the retention of information for up to 12 years where there has been no prosecution, that is still quite unacceptable."

They said more detail needed to be inserted into the bill about its plans for the DNA database.

But Home Office Minister Lord West said the government was carrying out a consultation on the DNA database which would "inform" the regulations.

The government argues that the changes mean the DNA profiles of up to 850,000 people will be removed from the database.

And it says the government says the current database has provided 400,000 crime scene matches over a decade.

Lord West said everyone "recognised the importance of DNA in the fight against crime".

He said biological material, like hair or saliva would only be held for six months while a DNA profile was put on the database, which he said would address people's concerns about holding "living" samples.

The wide-ranging bill, which also covers moves to criminalise men who pay for sex with women who are forced into prostitution, received its second reading.

Lord West said debates on the bill should not "lose sight of the need for practical measures that have practical applications to meet the challenges of crime fighting today".

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