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

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 8th March 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 4:45 pm, 8th March 2001

What I am trying to say—I may be failing—is that I am in favour of building up the DNA database. I am not in favour of considering that as a penalty for some act or omission in relation to the criminal justice system. I have tried to describe the voluntary joining of the database by consent and the acquittal process, about which the hon. Gentleman asked. It is not a penalty or a loss of liberty, as the hon. Gentleman describes it. The relationship between the individual and the state is not a zero sum game. The hon. Gentleman implies that if I give information to the state, I lose, and vice-versa. The passage of information between the two is not a zero-sum relationship. The hon. Gentleman and I may disagree. I want to build up the database, because it is an important device in dealing with crime.

I am sorry that it is taking so long for me to get to the amendments, but I do not think that I will want to say anything on clause stand part.

There is tremendous logic in opposing the clause altogether. One could argue the toss either way, judgments must be made and the debate is perfectly fair. However, with respect, I do not consider that the same logic applies to the amendment. If amendment No. 276 were to become part of the Bill, fingerprints or samples taken from suspects in the course of an investigation could be retained on acquittal or when a decision is made not to prosecute only if the individual gives their consent in writing.

That would negate a large part of the Bill. If a suspect had been acquitted of one crime but knew that he or she had committed another, it is not credible that he or she would consent to their fingerprints or DNA profile being retained. However, it is precisely in such circumstances that we most need to make use of the valuable objective evidence afforded by fingerprints and DNA.

I shall return to the point raised by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath at the beginning of the discussion. In the case of R v. B, the suspect was arrested on a charge for which he had had a DNA profile taken. He gave the wrong name. Had he given his correct name, it would have been apparent to the police that he already had a conviction, for which a DNA sample was not taken at the time of the conviction but which the police could have taken when he was subsequently arrested.

If the police had taken a sample for that offence, it could have been retained on the database regardless of his subsequent acquittal for the later offence. The R v. B case would never have come before the Court of Appeal and the compelling DNA evidence linking B to the appalling rape of the elderly lady referred to by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath could have been used. I do not think that B would have given his consent to his DNA being kept on the database in writing or otherwise. The amendment would allow the Bs of this world—I am not sure that I should put it like that as it might appear to relate to our earlier talk of Bs, Cs and As—to continue in their criminal pursuits and deny the police the opportunity to make full use of valuable evidence.

I acknowledge that, as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath explained, that is no part of the intention behind the amendment. The hon. Gentleman is not trying to weaken the powers in the provisions, but I would ask him to consider whether his amendment would have exactly the effect that I have described, and whether he should withdraw it. Alternatively, if the hon. Gentleman takes the view that our whole approach is wrong, he should vote against the clause rather than express his disagreement through the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 277 and 278 would restrict the definition of crime to any conduct that would constitute a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. The clause is drafted more broadly, to include crimes that constitute a criminal offence under the law of a part of the UK or of a country of territory outside the UK.