United Kingdom

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Overview

The UK’s National DNA Database (NDNAD) was the first to be established, in 1995. Two changes in the law, made by the Blair Government in 2001 and 2003, led to a massive expansion of the database. DNA samples and records were collected routinely from everyone arrested for any recordable offence, from the age of ten, and retained indefinitely whether or not they were charged or convicted. However, the law on retention was reversed following public controversy and a successful challenge in the European Court of Human Rights.

The 2008 Interpol survey reports that 329,660 crime scene DNA profiles and 5,093,145 individuals' profiles, plus 163 unknown/deceased DNA profiles were held in the UK at the time of the survey. According to Interpol, the UK's DNA database grew to 400,337 crime scene DNA profiles, 6,547,187 reference DNA profiles from individuals, 97 missing persons' DNA profiles, 35 unidentified human remains DNA profiles and 43,888 other DNA profiles in 2011. As at 31 March 2015, the NDNAD held 5,766,369 DNA profiles from individuals and 486,691 from crime scenes, following removal of DNA profiles from innocent people and some children convicted of minor offences. Removing these people from the database has not reduced crime detection rates.

Scotland rejected plans to retain DNA records from innocent people indefinitely in 2006. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, public opposition to keeping innocent people on the DNA database grew as more cases emerged of people falsely accused of minor offences who had their DNA stored.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the law in England and Wales breached the European Convention on Human Rights in December 2008 (in the case of S. and Marper v. the United Kingdom).

The UK’s Coalition Government adopted the Protection of Freedoms Act on 1st of May 2012, which came in to force at the end of October 2013. The DNA profiles and fingerprints of more than 1.7 million innocent people and children have been removed from police databases and more than 7.7 million DNA samples have also been destroyed.

Resources

Detailed Analysis

Note: This section has not yet been updated to include the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 and amendments to PACE : Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) 1994;Criminal Evidence.


(Amendment) Act 1997;Criminal Justice and Police Act (CJPA) 001;Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 2003. Changes in the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998, the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 and case law.[1]


Persons convicted of any recordable offence, arrested for any recordable offense, and all crime scene stains[2] The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (c.28) increased police powers for the stated purpose of countering terrorism. It allows speculative searches against DNA profiles held on behalf of the Security Service or Secret Intelligence Service and allows matches to be used “for purposes related to the identification . . . of the person from whom the material came.” In other words, a valid match can be obtained from a reference sample that did not originate from a crime scene.


For Scotland: Persons convicted of any recordable offence, arrested for any recordable offense, and all crime scene stains[3]


England & Wales: The Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows for the entry of the DNA profiles of all individuals who are charged with any recordable offence or who are convicted of such an offence. All DNA profiles that are derived from crime scene stains are also stored in the NDNAD.


Scotland: The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 allows for the entry of the DNA profiles of those arrested of any recordable offence or who are convicted of such an offence. All DNA profiles that are derived from unidentified crime scene stains are also stored in the database.


England & Wales: Whereas the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) allowed for the coercive taking of ‘non-intimate samples’ such as hair shafts, the Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (JPOA) changed the definition of ‘non-intimate samples’ to include buccal swabs by which police sampling powers were seriously extended. [4][4] This provision applies to both crime suspects and convicted offenders who are arrested or convicted of any recordable offence.[5] The police are allowed to take a DNA sample from minors who have reached the age of ten and from mentally ill persons. There are no restrictions to the collection of crime scene samples.


Scotland: A constable or a police custody and security officer at a constable’s direction can collect a mouth swab from those arrested of any recordable offence.[6] They may use reasonable force in exercising this power.[7] A constable or a police custody and security officer at a constable’s direction can also coercively collect a mouth swab from those convicted of any recordable offence.[8] They are allowed to take a DNA sample from minors who have reached the age of ten and from mentally ill persons. There are no restrictions to the collection of unidentified crime scene samples.


Convicted persons’ and suspects’ profiles are retained indefinitely and crime scene stains are kept until they have been identified[9]


For Scotland: Convicted persons’ profiles are retained indefinitely, suspects’ profiles are retained until the underlying proceeding is abandoned or the individual is acquitted, and crime scene stains are kept until they have been identified[10]


England & Wales: The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA) allows for the indefinite retention of the DNA profiles of both crime suspects and convicted offenders who are arrested or convicted of any recordable offence.[11] This provision also applies to crime suspects who are subsequently acquitted or freed of charges. The DNA profiles which are derived from unidentified crime scene stains are stored in the database until a match is found.


Scotland: The DNA profiles of those who are arrested of any recordable offence have to be removed from the database as soon as possible following the decision not to institute criminal proceedings against the person concerned or upon acquittal.[12] The DNA profiles of those convicted of any recordable offence can be retained indefinitely. The DNA profiles which are derived from unidentified crime scene stains are stored in the database until they are identified.


All samples are retained indefinitely[13]


For Scotland: Convicted persons’ samples are retained indefinitely, but suspects’ samples must be destroyed upon their acquittal or when no criminal proceedings are initiated[14]


England & Wales: The CJPA 2001 allows for the indefinite retention of the DNA samples of both crime suspects and convicted offenders who are arrested or convicted of any recordable offence. This provision also applies to crime suspect who are subsequently acquitted or freed of charges.


Scotland: The DNA samples of those who are convicted of any recordable offence can be retained indefinitely. Those taken from persons who are arrested of any recordable offence have to be destroyed as soon as possible following the decision not to institute criminal proceedings against the person concerned or upon acquittal.[15]


The Forensic Science Service, an Executive Designated staff employed by the Custodian Security clearance to Counter Terrorism Kingdom Agency of the Home Office, was responsible for the management of the National DNA Database since 1995, through the office of its Chief Scientist as Custodian of the Database, under a Memorandum of Understanding between the FSS and the Association of Chief Police Officers, revised in 2000, 2003 and again in 2005, and the oversight of the National DNA Database Board, chaired by ACPO. In July 2005, the Custodianship was transferred to the Home Office, then shortly thereafter to National Policing Improvement Agency.


Scotland: Although they can largely develop their own policies regarding the treatment of profiles and samples which are collected in the course of criminal investigations, it is not entirely correct to consider the databases of Scotland and England & Wales as two separate entities.[16] As Scotland exports all its profiles and unidentified crime scene stains to the NDNAD, the latter in fact contains nearly all UK profiles. As Scotland does not retain the profiles of suspects who are acquitted and against whom no criminal proceedings are instituted, these are the only profiles that stay in the custody of the Scottish police.


Oracle platform with Loader (input) and Match reporting database (repository for match information) It is an Oracle 9i database. Profiles are loaded electronically but from CSV files submitted as a batch rather than messaging.


All new profiles added to the Database are automatically searched on loading against all profiles held. The search regime uses 4 SGM discriminator loci to identify a matching sub-set which is then searched again using the remaining SGM Plus loci. Both exact and partial matches between Subject/crime scene and crime scene/crime scene are reported immediately (failed or rare alleles are treated as wild ‘cards’). Subject/subject matches are reported periodically.


One-off ‘snapshot’ speculative searches of sample profiles that do not meet the criteria for loading to the Database are also carried out using the same search regime. ‘Familial searches’ are also carried out to help identify potential relatives of offenders whose profiles are not on the Database A monthly search is also carried out for ‘near matches’ that differ by only 1 allele; these are then investigated to see if there has been an error in the profiling.



References

  1. E.U. 9445/1/06 at 9.
  2. See EU Current Practices at 80-81.
  3. See EU Current Practices at 81-83.
  4. JPOA (1994), § 58.
  5. Id. at § 55.
  6. Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, Art. 55, § 2
  7. Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, Art. 18, § 7.
  8. Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, Art. 55, § 3.
  9. See EU Current Practices at 81.
  10. See EU Current Practices at 83.
  11. CJPA (2001), § 82.
  12. Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, Art. 18, § 3.
  13. See EU Current Practices at 81.
  14. See EU Current Practices at 83.
  15. Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, Art. 18, § 3.
  16. P. Johnson & R. Williams, DNA and crime investigation: Scotland and the “UK National DNA Database,” 10 Scottish J. Crim. Justice Stds. 74 (2004).