Shami Chakrabarti, Director of human rights organisation Liberty
The national DNA database is something that has never been fully debated in Parliament. It currently holds about 4.5 million DNA profiles of all people who have been arrested since its inception. The issue with the DNA database is that once your profile is on there, it is very difficult to have it removed. So currently about 850,000 people who have never been convicted, charged, or even cautioned, by the police have their DNA profiles on the database.
I think it is unfair to keep innocent people's data. If you have done nothing wrong why should the police have a record of your DNA profile? So in September 2009 I held a DNA database clinic with the civil liberties organisation Liberty. Liberty very kindly produced a team of crack lawyers to come and meet with young people in Hackney whose DNA is on the database. They will then guide them through the process of having it removed. After the clinic top Liberty lawyer Anna Fairclough said this:
"From the moment the clinic was advertised we were overwhelmed by inquiries from people seeking help with destruction of their DNA. In 2007, Lady Scotland confirmed that three-quarters of the young black male population would soon be on the DNA database, so it was no surprise that we had a clinic full of young black men and boys, smart in their school blazers and flanked by worried parents.
Their accounts were depressingly similar. They had generally been arrested because they fit the physical description of a suspect – the suspect being described as a young black man. After interview they were released without charge, but their DNA and other records are held, currently until they die or reach 100. Despite their youth most had already been stopped and searched by police at least 10 times. The fact that the police searches found nothing means little. Each time they are subsequently stopped and searched they come under additional suspicion because they have been arrested in the past. It is a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle of suspicion, and it amazes me that despite the damning figures – published year after year under section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 – these practices continue."
I will continue to work in conjunction with Liberty to ensure innocent people can get their DNA profiles removed from the database. I'll also be pushing the Government to change the rules governing the database.