PMQs clash over rape suspects’ DNA

By politics.co.uk staff

Ed Miliband and David Cameron disagreed over plans to remove the DNA of rape suspects from a police database in prime minister's questions.

The Labour leader, who has previously tried to distance himself from New Labour's poor record on civil liberties, came close to repositioning himself by raising the issue in the Commons this lunchtime.

Proposals to prevent police holding the DNA of those arrested but not charged with rape are currently at an advanced stage in legislation working through the Commons.

The question would affect around 5,000 people a year who are arrested on suspicion of rape but not charged, Mr Miliband said.

"I have to say we inherited an unacceptable situation with a DNA database that had grown out of control," Mr Cameron said. "We made a big step forward from the mess we were left with by the last government."

Mr Miliband quoted Angie Conway of campaign group Rape Crisis, who said: "With the reporting of rapes on the increase and conviction rates still shockingly low, the evidence this database provides is vital. The more of this data we hold, the more chance we have of catching rapists."

He then added: "Isn't this another policy on crime that is careless, [not] thought through and out of touch?"

Mr Cameron said Mr Miliband had failed to understand the policy, pointing out that police are permitted to retain DNA information if they apply to do so.

"What we tend to find with his questions is he comes up with some idea, gets it completely wrong in the Commons, and we then find out afterwards he's given a partial answer," he added.

Mr Miliband had raised rape at PMQs recently after justice secretary Ken Clarke suggested there were different kinds of rape.