There have been people affected by the expansion of DNA databases in the UK and USA, where the largest databases exist. Here are some examples.



More than 100,000 innocent children ended up with records on the UK National DNA Database, before the law was changed to require removal of these records. A former police officer alleged that the police had been deliberately arresting innocent young people just to get their DNA. Children affected included a 12 year old boy accused of stealing his friend’s Pokémon cards; a ten year old girl arrested when she was bullied at school; a 14 year old arrested for jokingly pinging her schoolmate’s bra; and a one year old baby. A 13 year old girl who threw a snowball at a police car was also added to the database.



Police ‘arrest innocent youths for their DNA’, officer claims. The Telegraph. 4th June 2009.


Police put 100,000 innocent children on DNA database. Daily Mail. 23rd May 2007.


From schoolboy squabble to DNA database in one easy step – if you’re black. The Times. 24th November 2009.

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Fingerprinted and checked for DNA…the ten-year-old ‘bullying victim’. The Evening Standard. 11th September 2009.


Arrested and DNA tested – for jokingly pinging a bra. The Daily Mail. 28th July 2006.  


DNA of one-year-old baby stored on national database. The Telegraph. 10th March 2009.


A simple prank by a 13-year-old. Now her genetic records are on the National DNA Database for ever New Statesman. 25th April 2005. 




The expansion of the UK DNA database affected adults as well as children. People affected included a grandmother arrested for allegedly stealing a football that children had kicked into her garden; an 18-year-old who handed a lost phone into police and was then accused of stealing it; a man listening to an MP3 player who was arrested after a woman thought it was a gun; a computer expert wrongly accused of being a terrorist; a comedian, a TV producer and two Members of Parliament. Government plans to take DNA for even more minor offences, such as dropping litter, were dropped when even the police spoke out against them.




Grandmother arrested for stealing football ‘for revenge’. The Daily Mail. 5th October 2006.


Teen arrested by Southport police for handing in phone. Crosby Herald. 2nd April 2009.


Stop, armed police! Put down your MP3 player. The Guardian. 13th February 2008.


Innocent ‘terror techie’ purges DNA records The Register. 17th September 2007. 


Janet Street-Porter: I’m innocent. So the police have no right to keep my DNA on file. The Independent. 31st July 2008. 


Comedian Mark Thomas. How I got my genes deleted. The Guardian. 19th March 2009. 


Tory MP demands return of DNA sample as decision not to press charges leaves ministers red-faced but police in clear. DPP’s verdict on papers leaked in Damian Green affair – Not a threat to security. The Guardian. 17th April 2009. 


Remove my DNA sample from government files, demands MP. Daily Mail. 3rd August 2008. 


Litter lout DNA samples a step too far. The Telegraph. 2nd August 2007. 


Whilst DNA can be an important tool in solving crimes, DNA evidence is not foolproof. People who have been affected by mix ups of DNA samples include a teenager in England who spent three months behind bars for rape in city he had never even visited; and an 18 year old in Las Vegas who spent 4 years in gaol for a robbery committed by his cousin. In Houston, Texas, DNA samples were tampered with or contaminated and one result was that teenager Josiah Sutton was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. In New York, a student protestor was wrongly linked to a killing by DNA collected while she was protesting.

In England, Peter Hamkin was held by police for 20 days for an alleged murder in Italy, before it was discovered that a mistake with the DNA evidence had been made by Interpol.




DNA database in doubt after teenager spends three months behind bars for rape in city he has never even visited because gene samples were mixed up. Daily Mail. 18th May 2012. 


Las Vegas police reveal DNA error put wrong man in prison. Las Vegas Review Journal. 7th July 2011.


DNA Testing: Foolproof? CBS News. 11th February 2009.


DNA Match Tying Protest to 2004 Killing Is Doubted. The New York Times. 11th July 2012. 


Cleared murder accused victim of DNA blunder. Liverpool Daily Post. 10th March 2003. 

© 2014 Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative