Outrage as police chiefs are secretly told to hang on to unlawful DNA

Daily Mail | August 8, 2009
By James Slack

Police have secretly been told to continue with the unlawful 'Big Brother' policy of indefinitely storing DNA samples taken from entirely innocent people.

It is more than seven months since European judges ruled that DNA taken from 850,000 people who were not convicted of any crime could not be stored for life.

But a leaked letter by one of the country's most senior policing officials reveals that forces have been warned against starting to destroy the unlawful samples.

Chief constables have been 'strongly advised' they should stick to the old rules allowing blanket retention of DNA samples until at least 2010.

In the meantime, officers are free to trawl through the records of innocent people in search of a possible DNA match.

Last night, MPs condemned the tactic. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'It is unacceptable that new guidance won't be provided to police forces until 2010.

'In that time thousands more innocent people will have been added to the database, where they will remain for years.

'It is not up to police forces to ignore court judgments because they or their masters do not like them.'

Under current rules, DNA samples may be taken from anybody arrested for all but the most minor crimes. They can be stored indefinitely, even if the person is later cleared by a court or no charges are brought.

The sample will be removed only following a successful personal plea to a chief constable. The number destroyed in this way is tiny.

Last December, the European court ruled that the policy was unlawful and disproportionate.

The Home Office has since produced guidelines saying DNA samples taken from innocents should normally be destroyed after six or 12 years.

But the leaked letter by Ian Readhead, director of information at the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), says chief constables should set these guidelines aside until they become law next year.