National Dna Database

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:43 pm on 29th February 2008.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Identity) 2:43 pm, 29th February 2008

In the grand scheme of things, partial profiling has a very important role in crime detection, which I need to say very clearly before moving on. I can understand the concern about an innocent person getting a knock on the door from the police as a result of a match. However, the police have a duty to behave very sensitively in those circumstances, because a partial match does not indicate guilt. Screening can be done before any knock on the door happens. I stress that a partial DNA match is not enough in court. When it is only a partial match, other evidence is necessary to bring about a conviction. No court would accept a partial match alone. Certain screening mechanisms are on the way, but we would be very wary of removing the opportunity to carry out partial matches now that we have the science and technology to use it to filter down and hopefully catch the perpetrators.

Let me come back to the issue of young black men in particular. Reports have provided figures of the proportion of young black men on the national DNA database, which range from 40 per cent. to 75 per cent. There is no definitive figure. Let me explain why it is difficult to calculate. The recording of ethnicity is different, as I have already explained, from in the census, which adds one complication. Around one in 10 of those entered on the database are of unknown ethnicity, which creates further uncertainty. Around one in eight entries are duplicate profile entries—currently 13.3 per cent., although it is being ironed out. Anyone arrested today would have their fingerprints taken on "Livescan", which should prevent duplicate entries from occurring in the first place. It is a historic problem that is now being resolved. It clouds the issue further.

There are issues about obtaining corresponding population data to establish the baseline, but we know and have acknowledged that, as the hon. Lady rightly highlights, there is substantially higher representation of young black males than white males, reflecting the proportion of young black men in the criminal justice system. That is one reason for the Home Office welcoming the Select Committee on Home Affairs report on young black people in the criminal justice system. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Maria Eagle, is the lead Minister in relation to ensuring that the issue that the hon. Lady has raised and the issue generally in relation to young black men and women in the criminal justice system are addressed across Government.

That report was published in June 2007, and in October the Government published their response, which set out how we are dealing with those matters. I do not need to go into that with the hon. Lady, as I am sure she is familiar with it.