Page last updated at 09:40 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 10:40 UK

Tory MP claims DNA record victory

Damian Green
Mr Green says he does not want "special treatment"

A Tory MP has claimed a "small but significant victory for freedom" after police agreed to delete his DNA record.

But Damian Green says he wants the same right extended to all innocent people on the police database - rather than "special treatment" for public figures.

The shadow immigration minister was arrested last year as part of a Home Office leak inquiry but never charged.

The Home Office said it was consulting on proposals that "will ensure that the right people are on the database".

The government has yet to respond to a European Court ruling banning the retention of innocent people's DNA.

Mr Green, whose arrest in November last year sparked a political storm, told BBC News: "The police have now agreed that they will delete my DNA fingerprint and my police national computer record as I have been requesting ever since I was cleared."

He described the decision as a "small but significant victory for freedom and privacy in this country - but what is really important now is that I don't get special treatment just because I am a public figure".

In a letter to the MP, the Metropolitan Police said his case could be treated as "exceptional".

'Disgraceful behaviour'

But Mr Green said: "There are hundreds of thousands of other people who were in the same position as me... where they are completely innocent and yet the police are going to hang on forever to all their details.

"I just think that's intolerable in a democratic society. People have a democratic right to privacy and the law needs to be changed."

Police claim the DNA database is a vital tool in the detection of violent crime - but campaigners say it is an infringement of civil liberties.

Last year, the European Court said rules allowing police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to retain indefinitely the genetic profiles of everyone arrested for a recordable offence were indiscriminate and must be scrapped. There are different rules in Scotland.

Our proposals will ensure that the right people are on the database, as well as considering when people should come off
Home Office

The Home Office has just completed a three-month consultation on the European ruling but has yet to issue definitive guidance to police forces.

It could order 850,000 of the 4.5 million DNA profiles held on the police database to be deleted - but details of those cleared of crimes - or never even charged - will still be held for six years, or 12 in cases of serious violent or sexual offences.

A Home Office spokesman told the BBC: "We are clear that the DNA database plays a vital role in helping us protect the public by preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice.

"We are currently consulting on proposals that will comply with the court's judgment while maintaining public protection.

"Our proposals will ensure that the right people are on the database, as well as considering when people should come off.

"We are committed to putting in place an evidence-based retention regime, which has public support and enhances public protection."

'More transparency'

The spokesman said to this end the Home Office intend to "make the existing exceptional case procedure more open and transparent" by putting the criteria for early deletion in legislation and by placing reporting requirements on the process.

Mr Green said: "I think the government is behaving pretty disgracefully, they've been told by the European Court that the current policy is illegal and they are dragging their feet as slowly as possible, supported, I am afraid to say, by senior police."

And he hit back at claims by supporters of the current rules that DNA has been invaluable in solving thousands of "cold cases", saying that although it had a role to play retaining the DNA of innocent people risked "alienating the vast majority of respectable people from the police".

He said the Conservatives wanted to adopt the system used in Scotland where "if you are innocent your details are not kept on the database unless there is a sex crime accusation involved or a particularly violent crime" when it is kept for a maximum of three or five years.

In July, the Association of Chief Police Officers advised forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland not to remove records from the DNA database until the Home Office has finalised its response.

In a letter to chief constables, seen by the BBC, ACPO says it strongly advises "that decisions to remove records should not be based on proposed changes".

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