The Government is considering its position on the retention of DNA, including whether the police can apply to keep DNA in cases where serious offenders are arrested and charged but not convicted, as part of their Protection of Freedoms Bill.
It was reported in the Times on Sunday12th June, that a Home Office Spokesman has said “Under the old system we retained the DNA of innocent people while we did not collect the DNA of people guilty of criminal offences. That is wrong: our starting point is that we will take the DNA of the guilty, not the innocent. This means that we will retain indefinitely the DNA of those convicted of a recordable offence. We will ensure that those who have already broken the law can be traced if they re-offend.”
The indefinite retention of individuals DNA has been controversial with regard to civil liberties since its inception and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the indefinite retention of DNA samples on individuals investigated but not charged or convicted of any offence is unlawful. However, stored DNA was highlighted in the case of John Worboys, who was convicted following DNA matches with a sample taken in 2007 following a complaint that did not lead to any charge. Warboys stood trial in 2009 for 23 rapes. The Police procedure regarding investigation, attitudes and perceptions of women who report rape was brought into question as a result of that case and a series of recommendations were made.
Rape Crisis welcomes the current debate around the DNA database and hopes that, alongside important discussions regarding the right to privacy and freedom, the police investigation procedures in rape cases will not be overlooked. There remains major differences in police investigations and practices. In 2008, there was a renewed focus on Cold Cases, some of which resulted in successful prosecutions with stored DNA. However, the real focus then and now must be the pressing need for more effective police investigation and well-resourced Rape Crisis Centres.
The Home Affairs Select Committee is running a poll on the areas of work that the police needs to prioritise as part of their inquiry into the Government’s proposals for policing – “Given the financial constraints that police forces face, the Committee would like to hear which areas of work public think the police should prioritise and which areas of work the public think should be a lower priority”. Categories include sexual assault and domestic violence. The poll asks for a ranking for each of the levels of priority for each area. The deadline for responses is Thursday 23rd June. http://forums.parliament.uk/policing-priorities-poll/index.php?index