UK: Ethical issues regarding the forensic use of bioinformation

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Report from the Nuffield Council (pdf) Executive Summary (pdf)

"It is our view that the authority of the police to take and store both fingerprints and biological samples from all arrestees without their consent, regardless of the reason for the arrest, is disproportionate to the aims of identifying a person and of confirming whether or not a person was at a crime scene. Suspicion of involvement in a minor (at present ‘non-recordable’) offence does not justify the taking of bioinformation from individuals without their consent"

"We recommend that the law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be brought into line with that in Scotland. Fingerprints, DNA profiles and subject biological samples should be retained indefinitely only for those convicted of a recordable offence. At present, the retention of profiles and samples can be justified as proportionate only for those who have been convicted. In all other cases, samples should be destroyed and the resulting profiles deleted from the NDNAD [National DNA Database]."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"The Nuffield report notes that the distinction between "recordable" and "non-recordable" offences is arbitrary. I would further add that it appears the reason why other EU states have much smaller DNA databases than the UK is that they have a much higher threshold with the retention of DNA limited to serious offences on conviction"

See: Council of the European Union: DNA compiling of the answers (EU doc no: 9445/1/06 Rev 1)

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