James Slack – Daily Mail August 2, 2007
Drivers stopped for speeding - or even for failing to wear a seatbelt - could soon be placed on the 'Big Brother' DNA database for life.
The most trivial offences, such as dropping litter, would also lead to samples being taken under sweeping new powers which police are demanding.
The samples would stay on the database, alongside those of murderers and rapists, even if the people involved were later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Campaigners condemned the plan as a step too far which could affect someone's job prospects for many years.
Under current rules, a person can have his or her DNA and fingerprints taken only if stopped for a 'recordable' offence - a crime serious enough to carry a jail term.
Minor offences such as allowing a dog to foul the footpath are excluded.
But police - backed by the Crown Prosecution Service - want to take DNA samples, fingerprints and even imprints of footwear for all offences.
They argue that, just because a person initially commits a low-level misdemeanour such as dog fouling, it does not mean they will not progress to the gravest crimes.
A chance to take their DNA - making any future crime far easier to solve - would be missed without new powers. Police also want to take samples - usually a mouth swab - at the scene of the "crime".
They say having to take offenders to the police station, as happens now, is too "bureaucratic".
The Home Office suggested the new powers to police in a consultation document earlier this year. Ministers are now under pressure to confirm the change.
There are already four million samples on the database - including those of a million suspects who turned out to be innocent.
Helen Wallace of GeneWatch UK said last night: 'There is significant potential for the loss of public trust in extending the taking and use of biometrics. They pose a serious threat to individual privacy and are unlikely to be an effective way to tackle crime.
"Any attempt to take DNA samples outside a police station is clearly unworkable."
Sonia Andrews of the Magistrates' Association said: 'We would find it difficult to justify extending the ability to take biometric data to cover nonrecordable offences.'
The Information Commissioner's Office warned of the danger of people being turned down for jobs if checks reveal details of minor offences committed many years ago.
Under the current system records of such offences are deleted after time. But if they are tagged to a DNA sample on the database they could remain 'active'.
But the idea is backed by police across the country, according to consultation responses published yesterday.
Inspector Thomas Huntley, of the Ministry of Defence Police, said failing to take samples 'could be seen as giving the impression that an individual who commits a nonrecordable offence could not be a repeat offender.
"While the increase of suspects on the database will lead to an increased cost, this should be considered as preferable to letting a serious offender walk from custody."
Pete Hutin, of Sussex Police, said the "taking of DNA samples in custody is unnecessarily bureaucratic".
David Evans, of the CPS, argued that the move would allow a 'more comprehensive database'.
The Home Office said: 'The DNA database has revolutionised the way the police can protect the public through identifying offenders and securing more convictions.
"The database provides police with, on average, over 3,500 matches each month and in 2005-6 alone led to matches against 422 homicides, 645 rapes, 1,974 other violent crimes and over 9,000 domestic burglaries.
"The consultation is about maximising police efficiency and ensuring that appropriate and effective safeguards are in place. No decisions have yet been made and any detailed proposals will be subject to a further public consultation next year."
The police demand was revealed as the Human Genetics Commission, the Government's independent DNA watchdog, launched an inquiry into the database. Panels across the country will gather evidence on public opinion.
Last updated 04/08/2007