By Paul Christian
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
DNA taken from people, who turned out to be innocent, has not been destroyed by Hertfordshire Constabulary – and the force could not even say how many people’s genetic material it had kept.
Despite a request for transparency under the Freedom of Information Act, the Constabulary was unable to answer a series of questions from anti-surveillance pressure group Big Brother Watch.
The issue has come into sharp focus when the Government’s Protection of Freedoms Act gained Royal Assent at the beginning of last month.
It requires that some DNA and fingerprint samples must be destroyed.
But, in a response to Big Brother Watch’s request, Hertfordshire Constabulary was unable to confirm the total number of people that had their DNA taken in the last three years (January 1 2009 to November 30 2011).
A spokeswoman simply referred to another organisation, the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which holds figures and breakdowns for the years 2010 and 2011.
The NPIA figures showed as at the end of July 2010 there were 92,371 samples on the force’s database.
By the end of August last year there were 98,935 – an increase on the previous set of statistics of 6,564.
Secondly when asked for the total number of people whose DNA was taken by the police in the same time period, the number of those who were subsequently charged with an offence, Big Brother Watch was simply told: “No information is held.”
And finally when quizzed on the number of a DNA profiles subsequently destroyed for those individuals in question not charged with an offence in the time period, the spokeswoman said: “The Constabulary does not routinely destroy DNA when someone is not charged; therefore no information is held.”
Cambridgeshire Constabulary were more forthcoming with information, revealing it had taken 13,425 samples and deleted 1,687 records in the same period.
The Crow posed a further two queries with the force, they were: “Does Hertfordshire Constabulary have a system of distinguishing DNA profiles of those convicted from those neither charged nor found guilty?”
We also asked about the possible cost of destroying samples.
But the Crow was told these would not be answered immediately and to pose the questions under the Freedom of Information Act – a process that could take as long as 20 working days.