Northern Ireland
DNA data held on 1,119 innocent children


The Derry based Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) has called for the destruction of all DNA records held by the PSNI on children who have never been convicted or formally cautioned. The call comes following a recent case in Derry where an 11 year old girl had a DNA sample taken after she had written her name in inch high letters on Derry's Walls. Last Friday the PFC accompanied the father of the girl to a meeting with the PSNI District Commander at which the fingerprints and police photograph were destroyed and the father was given a written assurance that the DNA had been destroyed. A letter to that effect from the Forensic Science laboratory was shown.

A Freedom of Information request lodged with the PSNI by the PFC, (see below) has revealed dramatic evidence of the widespread retention of DNA by the PSNI in cases where no conviction or cautioning has followed, where the child is entirely innocent in otherwords. In total DNA is held on at least 3,065 young people under the age of 18. The figure may be higher since a second database has yet to be checked. Of this number 1,119 have no convictions or cautions.

A spokesperson for the PFC described the statistics as:

"a serious infringement of the rights of these children. We do not question the need to retain the DNA of serious violent and/or sexual offenders but to maintain records on children who have not been convicted of any offence is bizarre. When asked for their position on this the Policing Board told the PFC that the Board has no position as yet. Why not?

We would urge all parents in a similar position who believe that the DNA of their children has been retained to assert their right to oversee the destruction of such records. We welcome the fact that records were destroyed in the case involving an 11 year old girl. Equally this case highlights the need to destroy the DNA samples held on 1,119 other children. To put them on a DNA database for the rest of their lives is a disgrace and must be challenged."

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Full FOIA response from the PSNI below

FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT 2000

This is to inform you that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has now completed its search for the information you requested. The decision has been taken to disclose the located information to you in full.

Specifically we are seeking a breakdown of the following figures;

Question 1. On how many under-18 year olds has DNA data been retained by the PSNI?

Answer 1. 3,065 young people under the age of 18, have a status of DNA Confirmed on database.

The PSNI are in a process of transition between record management systems which hold DNA data. In addition there are a further 620 DNA records on a separate system which would have to be manually checked against the records held on the main system to ensure there is no duplication.

Question 2. How many of these under-18 year olds have not been convicted of any offence?

Answer 2. Of these 3,065 young people:

- 1,946 have a conviction or a caution.
- 1,119 have no convictions or cautions

Question 3. How many of these under-18 year olds have been convicted of a serious offence?

Answer 3. The cost to comply with your above request for information would exceed the "appropriate limit" as stated in the Freedom of Information Regulations 2004, which is currently set by the Secretary of State at £450.

Serious Arrestable Offences are defined under PACE legislation however our database does not sub define this category. Therefore all 3,065 convictions would have to be manually checked against the PACE Serious Arrestable definition, which would take well in excess of the time permitted to keep your request within the "appropriate limit"

Question 4. How many of these under-18 year olds have not been charged with any offence?

Answer 4. Of these 3,065 young people, all but 3 have been charged or reported for prosecution.

Please note that our database effectively stores DNA details against people who are to be prosecuted. There may be instances where DNA has been taken, and passed to FSANI, but for whatever reason, there has been a decision not to prosecute. DNA details may not then have been added to our database.


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