Photo of The Earl of Onslow

The Earl of Onslow (Conservative)

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many samples of DNA have been retained from those who have not been convicted of any offence; how many of those are children, and how many from ethnic minority groups.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, data on whether persons with a profile on the National DNA Database have been convicted of any offence are not held on the DNA database. Such data are held on the Police National ComputerPNC—but are not routinely available. The Home Office, ACPO and PITO are holding discussions on the possibility of being able to provide such information from the PNC in future.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow

The Earl of Onslow (Conservative)

My Lords, with the greatest respect to the Minister, that is a totally unsatisfactory Answer. Questions on this subject have repeatedly asked the Government to provide the information. It is reputed that one-quarter of all black males are on this list. Is this not a condemnation of racist attitudes in the collection of the database? Is it not something of which, on both libertarian and racist grounds, the Government should be ashamed?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, we need to be clear that the DNA database simply collates the information gained from crime scenes and collected by officers in the process of usual criminal investigations. It is not used for any other purpose.

Photo of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Labour)

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the use of DNA is not only extremely valuable for the conviction of criminals but a powerful tool in the acquittal of the innocent, thereby preventing miscarriages of justice?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, indeed I do. There were nearly 3.8 million persons on the DNA database as at the end of January 2007. It includes more than 19,000 volunteers, and we have been able to detect a large number of crimes. There were 45,000 crimes with DNA matches in 2005-06, including 422 homicides, 645 rapes, 256 other offences, 1,974 other violent crimes and more than 9,000 domestic burglary offences. It also enables us to eliminate a number of people from inquiries. More than 94,000 samples were taken and we were able to eliminate 92,500—so it is both a sword and a shield.

Photo of Lord Dholakia

Lord Dholakia (Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, has the Minister's department taken any initiative to determine whether the system of DNA collection is fair? Will she ensure that the initiative's impact on certain groups will be looked at to ensure that it does not follow the pattern of stop and search?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, the National DNA Database strategy board is supporting the Home Office in taking forward a number of measures to ensure that there is no inherent disproportionality in the police processes for taking DNA samples from arrested persons. The production of an equality impact assessment of the ACPO DNA good practice guide, which provides guidance for police officers and the Home Office, has been commissioned. A series of visits to some forces in England and Wales are being funded to establish consistency in DNA sampling. We are discussing with the National Black Police Association options for its greater involvement in this work.

Photo of Lord Elystan-Morgan

Lord Elystan-Morgan (Crossbench)

My Lords, how long are DNA samples from children kept? How long are fingerprints from children kept, either where there has not been any trial or where a trial has not led to a conviction?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, each sample is kept on the database indefinitely. Once it is taken, it is then available both for the identification and the elimination of that individual in the future. Every time data are taken from a crime scene, they are matched with data on the DNA database to see whether there is any correlation between them. I have already alluded to the fact that we have identified huge numbers of people who have committed very serious crimes by virtue of retaining these data.

Photo of Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve (Crossbench)

My Lords, can the noble Baroness inform the House what proportion of police officers, whose DNA is particularly relevant for elimination purposes since they attend the scenes of crimes, are included in the database?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, I am not able to give the noble Baroness that figure. In certain investigations data are taken from all persons, including officers, in order to eliminate them from the search, but it tends to be an intelligence-led exercise, identifying from whom samples are taken. I remind the House, as I said earlier, that there are a number of volunteers on the database who have given their data in order to enable them to be eliminated.

Photo of Lord Teverson

Lord Teverson (Spokesperson in the Lords (Climate Change), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Whip; Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, the Government are in negotiations in the Council of Ministers to sign up to what is known as the Prum treaty, which gives European member states direct access to national DNA records. Can the Minister assure us that those who have not been convicted of any offence are not included in the data that can be interrogated by other member states?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, we should be clear that negotiations on the Prum treaty have not been completed; the noble Lord is right to say that they are ongoing. We will remain in control of our database. I remind the House that some individuals who have not been convicted of an offence but have been correctly arrested and whose data are kept on the database are subsequently matched with very serious offences. We have thereby been able to identify them as the perpetrators of serious crime. On other occasions I have given the example of the murder of two little girls. We were able to match the relevant person after almost 30 years by virtue of the fact that when they were arrested for a shoplifting offence we matched the DNA and found that they had been the perpetrator of two murders. One has to remember that this is a very valuable tool.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Conservative)

My Lords, given the Minister's obvious enthusiasm for collecting and keeping DNA, even of those who are not convicted and subsequently never commit another offence, will she repeat the assurances that she gave throughout the passage of the Identity Cards Bill through this House—that when the Government introduce identity cards, they will under no circumstances put DNA on that database?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, I am happy to do so. The noble Baroness is right; in terms of ID cards it was never our intention to include DNA. She will also remember that there was some suggestion that people could volunteer to put it on. We had an interesting debate about how that could be managed. No part of the Government's case was that DNA should be put on the identity card database.