Minorties’ DNA More Likely To Be Recorded

Innocent members of ethnic minority communities are almost three times more likely than white people to have their DNA samples on the national database, according to figures published yesterday.

Twenty-three per cent of people whose DNA details have been stored on the database after being arrested but not charged or convicted were nonwhites, compared with an overall ethnic minority population in England and Wales of 9 per cent.

The Liberal Democrats published the figures after analysing statistics released by the Home Office showing that the database contains details on just under 125,000 innocent people.

Overall, just under 29,000 samples on the database were from Afro-Caribbeans, Asians, Orientals and Arabs.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said: “These latest statistics are worrying on two counts: first, because they confirm yet again the massive scale of the DNA information held on people who were not even charged with an offence, let alone convicted. This further blurs the fundamental distinction between innocence and guilt that Labour has undermined.”

Mr Clegg added: “Second, because of the shocking disproportion of DNA information held on members of our ethnic minority communities, even those who have committed no crime. This will serve to inflame suspicions that our black and ethnic minority communities are being subject to intrusive police surveillance not applied to other communities.”

In London, black and Asian people made up 55 per cent of the total number of innocent people on the database, even though they represent just 29 per cent of the population. In the West Midlands, people from ethnic minorities made up 37 per cent of innocent people on the database although they comprise only 20 per cent of the population in the police force area. In Leicestershire they made up 32 per cent of innocent people on the database but make up only 15 per cent of the population.

The national DNA database now holds more than 3,980,000 samples, of which more than 125,000 were taken from people who were neither cautioned nor charged. They include DNA records of 24,000 juveniles.

The Government and the police insist that the register is crucial for solving serious crimes, including rapes and murders. But opposition MPs and civil rights groups said that the figures were evidence of the drift towards a society in which every citizen becomes a suspect.

The number of samples on the database rose by almost 600,000 in 2006, according to the latest figures from the Home Office. As well as criminals, samples are retained from those arrested but not convicted, and from victims and witnesses who give their consent.

Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said last night: “We have long maintained that it is far too easy for innocent people to end up on the DNA database by stealth and in a wholly uncontrolled manner. This is more evidence that makes the Government’s refusal to answer our calls to have a parliamentary debate about this database, and to put it on a statutory basis, indefensible.”

Sample figures

  • 9% proportion of the population of England and Wales who belong to an ethnic minority
  • 23% proportion of innocent people on the DNA database who belong to an ethnic minority

Source: Home Office