Armed Forces: Genetics

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what protocols are in place to share the genetic data of serving and retired members of the Armed Forces with the police and prosecuting authorities.

Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Ministry of Defence refused to share genetic data with the Kent constabulary in relation to an ongoing investigation into burglaries in that area; and, if so why.

Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government how long records of genetic data on members of the Armed Forces are held by the Ministry of Defence.

Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Ministry of Defence can share genetic data relating to serving and retired members of the Armed Forces following a request by the police for criminal investigations.

Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many times in the last ten years the Ministry of Defence has refused to share genetic data relating to serving and retired members of the Armed Forces with the police and prosecuting authorities.

Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government under which circumstances the sharing of genetic data held by the Ministry of Defence with the police would breach data protection legislation.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

All DNA samples taken by the Service Police or Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) in the course of their investigations are analysed and a DNA profile is produced. This profile is then uploaded onto the National DNA Database (NDNAD) and the physical DNA samples are destroyed within six months unless they are required for disclosure as evidence, in which case they may be retained for as long as the need exists under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act 1996. The Service Police and MDP do not maintain their own databases, meaning that any Service Police and MDP DNA searches are carried out against the NDNAD. The retention periods for DNA profiles on the NDNAD depend on the outcome of the investigation, the age of the offender and the type of offence.

Entirely separate from DNA profiles which are uploaded to the NDNAD because of a Service Police or MDP investigation, and which are accessible to all Home Office Police Forces during their investigations, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) maintains DNA reference samples which are voluntarily provided by Service personnel. These are used solely for the identification of deceased Service personnel and to reduce delays for grieving families, when other methods of identification such as visual and dental are not available. Such DNA reference samples are taken by consent, which means the consent given before death remains valid for a DNA sample intended for use after death. The MOD’s voluntary DNA reference sampling policy complies with the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Each DNA reference sample is stored, unanalysed, in an “un-sequenced” physical state, preventing them from being entered onto any database or used for any purposes until authorised by either a Coroner for a post-mortem or as directed by the donor. These voluntary DNA samples will be destroyed upon leaving the Service, at the request of the donor, or after 45 years, whichever is soonest. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 prohibits the un-sequenced DNA voluntarily provided by Service personnel for identification purposes from being released to the Police.

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