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DNA Database – Should you be Concerned?

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According to the Home Office, the national DNA database is a key police intelligence tool. A simple DNA test can be used to help:

  • Identify offenders fast
  • Apprehend offenders earlier
  • Convict more offenders

Forensic Evidence

A DNA test is hard evidence that can link a criminal to a crime scene with a simple DNA sample – a mouth swab for instance. These samples are collated onto a national database. It is the largest database of its kind in the world – it’s possible to do a test on 5.2% of the population. There are just 0.5% on America’s DNA database. Although the majority of DNA profiles are those of active offenders, there are also innocent citizens on the database too.

An Effective Tool

But the DNA test is proving to be such an effective tool in the fight against crime that the database is continuing to receive investment – it is in fact according to the Home Office ‘one of the government’s top priorities’ with an investment of over £300 million in five years.

DNA Samples v. Personal Privacy

The database however is overseen by the Human Genetics Commission. There are concerns that innocent peoples’ DNA profiles are stored on the database. This is because the law states that DNA samples can by taken from anyone arrested and detained in a police station – even if they are acquitted. It’s believed that the effectiveness of the DNA test in forensic crime outweights any intrusion on personal privacy.

  • 45,000 crimes were matched against records on the DNA database using a simple DNA test in 2005, including 433 homicides and 645 rapes
  • Around 3.4 million people have their DNA profiles stored on police databases

DNA Test – The ‘Big Brother’ Database

It’s clear that DNA databases are important police tools. But campaigners are arguing that innocent peoples’ DNA should not be held indefinitely on the database. Their objections revolve around issues of principle around the civil liberties agenda and equalities. There are also fallibility issues – fears of misuse, abuse and security around the DNA information. However, surveillance is at the top of the agenda for many Western governments as a result of Islamic terrorist attacks.

Related reading

It is estimated by the Home Office that by 2008 4.2 million DNA samples will be held on a criminal DNA database. The idea that seven percent of the population will have their identity stored on the database has raised concerns about civil liberties. Should you be concerned about this? Read our story.

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