CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOME AFFAIRS – DNA DATABASE – 10 October 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: In deciding whether to support the amendment or the Government tonight, I have to balance the loss of rights of those people who had crimes committed against them, or who may have crimes committed against them as a result of reducing the period of the retention of DNA from six years to three, against the injustice that might be visited on innocent people whose DNA is kept for three years longer than it otherwise would be. Can the Minister tell me, in words simple enough even for me to understand, what exactly the loss of human rights and the injustice will be to those innocent people who have their DNA kept for three years longer before it is wiped? Can he compare that with the suffering of victims who have crimes committed against them by people who will not be detected?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): This is about getting the right people on the national DNA database. By that, I mean those who have been convicted of crimes. We should focus on those who have committed crimes; we should look at recidivism and getting persistent prolific offenders, those who have been in prison and those who have committed crimes on the national DNA database. Interestingly, that was not the approach of the previous Government; they were more fixated with keeping the innocent on the national DNA database. If we take the approach that I suggest, we can ensure that we focus attention where it is needed, and that we do our duty – this is something that I take very seriously – when it comes to protecting the public and ensuring that the police can do what is necessary. I certainly believe that the provisions before the House will enable the police to do that.

Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend is very generous in giving way, particularly as he knows that this will not be a supportive question. With the greatest respect, he did not answer my question, which was: in practical, simple terms, in what way will these innocent people – let us accept that they are innocent – who will have their DNA kept on record for an extra three years suffer, or have their rights infringed? Can we compare that with the suffering and infringed rights of people who will otherwise have crimes committed against them by criminals who go unpunished?

Mr Brokenshire: When I look at the Members of Parliament who contact me about the DNA database, there are not huge stacks of correspondence relating to the retention of DNA. The correspondence relates to the many people who complain about their DNA remaining on the national DNA database when they are innocent of any crime, and who say how that offends them. Let us look at some of the cases involved. GeneWatch UK has been quite helpful in highlighting the issues. There is the 12-year-old schoolboy arrested for allegedly stealing a pack of Pokemon cards; the grandmother arrested for failing to return a football that was kicked into her garden; the 10-year-old victim of bullying who had a false accusation made against her; and the 14-year-old girl arrested for allegedly pinging another girl's bra. Those people have been arrested; their DNA would be retained under the arrangements that the previous Government seemed to laud. That issue of injustice is very much at the heart of the matter.