Blair champions expanding DNA database

Tony Blair today championed the benefits of DNA technology, and suggested there should be no limits on the number of samples held in the national database.

The prime minister was speaking as he toured the Forensic Science Service headquarters in central London, which has solved 100 rape and murder cases that had gone “cold”.

There are currently 3.6 million DNA profiles held in a central database, many of which have been included since new laws allowing its expansion were introduced in 2003.

The Criminal Justice Act allows police to take and keep DNA samples from anyone arrested for an imprisonable offence – regardless of whether they are found guilty.

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats in January this year suggested that 140,000 people who were arrested, but never charged or cautioned, have their DNA profile on the national database.

More than five per cent of the UK population is on the database, compared to an EU average of 1.13 per cent and 0.5 per cent in the US. Civil liberties campaigners have expressed concern at such an intrusion into – often innocent – people’s personal lives.

However, today Mr Blair said: “I think the politicians are more resistant than the public. I think the public think if this is helping us track down murderers, rapists…then go for it.”

He praised Operation Advance, which uses DNA testing to re-analyse samples in “cold” cases and has so far secured 21 convictions, saying: “In this day and age if you’ve got the technology then it’s vital to use that technology to track people down.”

Asked if there should be any restrictions on the database, the prime minister said: “The number on the database should be the maximum number you can get.”

Home Office minister Tony McNulty, who accompanied Mr Blair, accused the Conservatives of talking tough and voting “soft”. They opposed the 2003 act and have expressed concern about the size of the database, although they back its use.

“Their opposition to these DNA advances is a prime example of this. Thanks to legislation introduced by the Labour government, 21 dangerous criminals are now behind bars. The question for the Tories is whether they now support these measures,” he said.