Since 2007, Jenny has fought hard to remove all innocent people from the DNA Database, because keeping innocent people's details on the database:
- Violates the fundamental premise that people are innocent until proven guilty: we should not treat people as if they are guilty until this has been proven in a court of law;
- Has not improved crime detection rates; and
- Incurs costs that could be directed to front-line policing.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the four Welsh Chief Constables to remove the DNA profiles of innocent Welsh people that have been loaded on to the DNA database, if a request for removal is made.
Since 2001, the DNA profiles of anyone arrested, cautioned or warned has been stored, regardless of whether they are convicted. It is estimated that around 1 in every 5 of the 268,000 profiles on the database belong to innocent people.
Chief Constables have the power to remove DNA profiles upon request. In December 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in a landmark case that storing the DNA of innocent people is a blatant breach of their human rights.
The Welsh Lib Dems are urging innocent people in Wales to write to their Chief Constable to request that their DNA be removed and have set up a dedicated webpage with guidance and a downloadable template letter.
Commenting, Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central who has led on this issue in Parliament, said:
"It is appalling that the Government is still allowing innocent people to be put on the DNA database when they know it is a blatant breach of their human rights.
"Storing the DNA of people who have never been convicted of a crime, for the rest of their life, is a violation of a founding pillar of our justice system - innocent until proven guilty.
"The Government is moving at a snail's pace. Over 300,000 innocent people's DNA has been added to the database since the practice was ruled illegal, including 6,000 people in South Wales.
"Those affected in South Wales should use the template letter and advice on my website to write to the Chief Constable to ask for their DNA to be removed.
"Welsh Chief Constables have the power to remove innocent people from the database and to start to restore the faith in our criminal justice system that Labour has eroded. It is now up to them."
The National DNA Database was set up in 1995 authorising the police to retain the DNA samples and profiles of anyone convicted of a crime.
However, under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, the Labour government changed the law to allow the police to retain indefinitely the samples and profiles of anyone charged with an offence, regardless of whether or not they were found guilty.
In 2003, the government further extended police powers to retain DNA of anyone cautioned or arrested for an offence, regardless of whether they were charged.
The latest figures show that the DNA of almost 5 million people is on the DNA database. The Home Office estimates that 1 in every 5 DNA profiles belongs to someone who does not have a criminal record; a total of nearly 1 million innocent people.
Exceptional Case Removal Procedure
Chief Constables have the power to authorise the removal of an individual's DNA profile and the destruction of their DNA sample under the 'Exception Case Removal Procedure'.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has published guidelines to help Chief Constables to determine whether someone has a legitimate case for removal. These include the following grounds:
- A false allegation was made
- The subject was unlawfully arrested
- The subject was wrongfully arrested
- The subject was unlawfully cautioned
- The caution given was inappropriate
- The subject was unlawfully processed (not following particular custody process)
- No offence took place
- The subject was unlawfully reprimanded
- The reprimand given was inappropriate
- The subject was inappropriately advised about sample retention
However, these 'exceptional cases' do not include cases where the subject is simply innocent.
Jenny continues to call for the Government to:
- Remove immediately from the database all DNA profiles of those who have not been charged or convicted;
- Only retain the DNA profiles of those convicted of criminal activity; and
- Time limit the retention of DNA profiles from those arrested for but not convicted of violent or sexual offences, unless the police can provide compelling evidence for the need for further retention.