What is the DNA database?
DNA samples, for example from cheek swabs, can be analysed to produce a DNA ‘profile’. This is a series of 20 numbers plus an indicator that shows the gender of the person. DNA profiles can be used as evidence in criminal investigations when matched to samples of material taken from crime scenes. The UK has the world’s first national DNA database, which in 2010 contained over 5 million people’s DNA profiles – mostly those who have been suspects in investigations or convicted of crimes.
Should we have a national DNA database?
With DNA from over 5 million people on the police’s national DNA database, DNA profiling has proved to be a valuable tool for solving crimes. In England in 2010 your DNA profile is taken and stored if you are arrested, even if you are found not guilty. Some argue that the DNA database intrudes on people’s privacy and that sensitive genetic information could be misused. However, a decision by the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 led to a new law in England and Wales which will limit how long DNA and DNA profiles can be stored.