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disposal of DNA samples

Disposal of DNA samples: Murderers and Rapists Walk Free

In the news this month, Supt Martin Bottomley of Greater Manchester Police claimed that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 was hindering his cold case unit investigations.

Under the Act, samples taken for some arrests must now be destroyed. Supt Bottomley said that this disposal of DNA samples could result in murderers and rapists avoiding detection. He claimed that the destruction orders have resulted in situations where cases which could have been solved may now not be, allowing perpetrators to get away with their crimes without detection.

Supt Bottomley gave the example of a man who was identified for the rape of two 15 year old girls because his force held a relative’s DNA on their database. Although the suspect died before he could be charged with the offences, Supt Bottomley commented on the reaction of the man’s victims, who said they had lived in fear of the perpetrator for at least a decade after the offences had taken place. For them, the identification of the rapist and the news of his death allowed them to a form of closure.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that two million people who had been arrested but not charged (including children) have had their DNA profiles deleted since the Act came into force. She added in relation to the disposal of DNA samples:

“We are committed to safeguarding the privacy of innocent people whilst ensuring the National DNA Database provides an important and effective tool for the police in solving crime.”

In response to the concerns outlined above by the head of the cold case unit, The Home Office said: “The Government has no plans to change the Protection of Freedoms Act.”

While Liberty (pro-civil liberties and human rights organisation) welcomed the introduction of the Act and its principle changes to the old blanket retention policy, they state on their website that they “remain concern about the numerous exceptions within the Act and the extended retention of DNA of those arrested but not charged or convicted”.

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