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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
'Blanket DNA retention' ruled out
DNA
In England and Wales, DNA is held from anyone who is arrested
The Scottish Government has dismissed a call by a senior judge in England for an expansion of the UK's DNA database.

In England and Wales, DNA is retained from anyone who is arrested but in Scotland DNA samples must be destroyed if there is no charge or conviction.

Lord Justice Sedley said it would be fairer to include "everybody, guilty or innocent" on the national database.

But Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said blanket retention was "unacceptable".

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "On 26 June, the justice secretary Kenny MacAskill announced a review of DNA retention in Scotland.

"In announcing the review, Mr MacAskill said that blanket retention was unacceptable in the relationship between the citizen and state.

"The review is expected to begin very shortly."

Sir Stephen Sedley, who is one of England's most experienced appeal court judges, said the whole population - and every UK visitor - should be added to the national DNA database.

Fingerprints
Under the plans police will be able to store fingerprints and DNA

He said, under the current system, people from ethnic minorities were disproportionately represented and offenders who have evaded arrest were not on the database.

Since 2004, the data of everyone arrested for an offence in England and Wales remains on the system regardless of their age, the seriousness of their alleged offence, and whether or not they were prosecuted.

In Scotland, DNA samples taken when people are arrested must be destroyed if the individual is not charged or convicted.

But new powers allowing Scottish police forces to keep the DNA of people accused of sexual or violent offences came into force in January.

These samples can be held for three years or more.

The previous Labour administration in Scotland had proposed changes to the law which would bring Scotland into line with England and Wales, but this was rejected by the Scottish Parliament.

'Mass screening'

Responding to Lord Sedley's call, the Home Office said the current database of four million profiles had helped solve criminal cases, but to expand it would raise logistical and ethical issues.

Professor Stephen Bain, who is a member of the Human Genetics Commission and sits on the national DNA Database Strategy Board, said a standardisation of systems north and south of the border would be an "expensive and difficult" process.

He told BBC Radio Scotland the Commission's view was that the Scottish situation was better than that of England and Wales.

"The current debate that's going on within the Strategy Board is whether to make it less of a presumption that people who volunteer for the national database are automatically added to it for life," he said.

"So if, for example, they gave a sample as part of a mass screening for a murder investigation, in England and Wales you're never able to reverse that decision. In Scotland, you are allowed to change it.

"At the moment in England, there's a new ethics group that's being set up to work with the DNA Strategy Board which is considering whether the Scottish model is the more sensible option."


SEE ALSO
New powers to store suspects' DNA
01 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Police may be handed new powers
20 Jun 05 |  Scotland
At-a-glance: Police Bill details
09 Feb 05 |  Scotland
New police database launched
12 Dec 03 |  Scotland
Police can keep suspects' DNA
12 Sep 02 |  UK News
A database too far?
19 Jan 01 |  UK News

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