Clause 81 - Restriction on use and destruction of fingerprints and samples

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 4:30 pm, 8th March 2001

That brings me to the second general consequence of the process that I was going to mention, namely the tremendous power of the scientific techniques associated with DNA, which are transforming our ability to solve a wide variety of cases. It was impressively demonstrated to me shortly after I took office. I went to see the chief constable of Hampshire, who took me through some terrible crimes that had been committed, going back over 15 years. His force was steadily working through them, using the evidence of the time with the modern DNA data, and there have been other recent powerful and convincing examples. Because DNA is such an important part of modern policing technique, it is Government policy to encourage it; we have put a lot of money into it. We therefore felt that for there to be a legal question over the use and abuse of that process was very serious.

The hon. Member for Reigate mentioned another important case in illustrating the ability of the criminal justice system to judge scientific cases. I do not think that this was his point, but the conclusion that I draw from it is that we must strengthen the ability of the criminal justice system—both of juries and of the court itself—to use, understand, interpret and evaluate scientific evidence of this kind, rather than turn our backs on the scientific evidence process as a whole.