UK DNA Database under scrutiny

By EDRi · November 8, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

United Kingdom has today the largest DNA database in the world, with over
3,5 million DNA samples. These days the Nuffield Council on Bioethics
announced starting a public consultation about the new legislation regarding
the storage of the DNA samples.

The DNA database was initiated in 1996 with little public consultation and
since 2003 anyone arrested by the police had their DNA taken, for crimes
going from murder to drink driving. Their DNA samples have been kept even
though they have never been officially charged. A Home office report has
shown that over 139 000 people, including 24 000 children, are in this

The report also shows that 5,24 % of the UK population has a profile in the
database. The DNA sample could be taken also from victims or witnesses, but
only with their written consent. However, the consent could not be

The percentage could increase up to 25% of the population, if the original
plans of Tony Blair continues. In a recent visit to the Forensic Science
Service, which operates the database for the Home Office, the prime minister
declared that he wanted a further extension of the DNA database. According
to the new legislation, the samples will be kept for three years for the
people charged with violent and sexual offences, even if they are not

The independent think-tank Nuffield Council on Bioethics called for a
public consultation regarding the UK DNA database. One of the members of the
think-tank is Sir Alec Jeffreys, who developed the DNA testing in
1980s. He considers that the initial objective of the tool – to catch
criminals that re-offend – has been overridden and expressed his concerns
that the samples could be used in the future also for different purposes.

Sir Jeffreys said that the collected DNA samples were now “skewed
socio-economically and ethnically”. “The real concern I have in the UK is
what I see as a sort of ‘mission creep’.”

The chairman of the Nuffield Council Sir Bob Hepple explained the scope of
the campaign:
“We want to hear the public’s views on whether storing the DNA profiles of
victims and suspects who are later not charged, or acquitted, is justified
by the need to fight crime.” He also explained that: “Certain groups, such
as young males and ethnic minorities, are over- represented on the database,
and the council will be asking whether this potential for bias in law
enforcement is acceptable.”

The forensic use of bioinformation: ethical issues (1.11.2006)

DNA pioneer accuses the police of being overzealous (2.11.2006),,173-2433318,00.html

Growing DNA database ‘turning Britain into a nation of suspects’ (1.11.2006)

Public consulted over DNA fears (1.11.2006)