The great DNA fishing trip

Across the country, police forces are now busy tracking down people to hand over a DNA sample, not based on any current suspicion of committing an offence but purely because of historical offences that took place decades ago.

The civil liberties implications of this kind of operation are clear. People, currently not under suspicion for any crime and who have served their punishment for past offences, are now hunted down simply in the hope that the force will get lucky and clear up a case.

However, there is also a wider point. A pilot scheme carried out by Hampshire police gathered 167 samples, however none of them matched any outstanding crimes. Now call us pedants, but as pilot schemes go that doesn’t sound like a success. Indeed, you might even suggest that it was a waste of police time. The initial list was 471 people, but for various reasons – including people being dead – the force didn’t manage to collect even half their intended samples.

Rather than pursuing individuals suspected of crimes, putting more resources into ongoing operations and following leads, this gigantic fishing trip is diverting resources away from catching criminals at a time when the police are already overstretched.

Of course if you’re one of the thousands of innocent people currently waiting to have your DNA deleted, you’ll be unsurprised to hear Home Office guidance still hasn’t been issued on when profiles should be deleted – despite the Protection of Freedoms Act being passed in May.