Names of arrestees will stay on police database indefinitely.
The government has been forced to scale back the way it holds the details of people held on the national DNA database, following a European Court ruling that retaining the profiles of people arrested but not charged with a crime or who were acquitted, was “disproportionate”. As a result, government plans – outlined in the crime and security bill going through parliament – will limit how long the DNA profiles of such people can be kept. In most cases it will be up to six years.
But the Observer has established that the records of their arrest will be held by police for an indefinite period. The 2005 National DNA Database Annual Report says: “It has become necessary to retain a nominal record of every person arrested for a recordable offence on the Police National Computer… to help the police identify and locate an individual following a match being obtained on the [DNA database].” Prior to the expansion of the DNA database, details were deleted on acquittal or if charges were dropped after 42 days.
“Keeping permanent records of arrest is unprecedented in British history and is open to serious abuse,” said Helen Wallace, director of the campaign group GeneWatch UK. “Failing to delete police records of people who are innocent means business as usual for the surveillance state.”
The office of the information commissioner has warned: “All records held on the [police national computer] are readily accessible to any serving police officer acting in his or her official capacity and this access is frequently used to run a ‘name check’ on individuals who come into contact with the police. Given this level of access, the commissioner is concerned that the very existence of a police identity record created as a result of a DNA sample being taken on arrest could prejudice the interests of the individual to whom it relates by creating inaccurate assumptions about his or her criminal past.”