The government appears to have backtracked on a pre-election promise to delete the DNA profiles of innocent people stored on police databases, in a move that has outraged civil liberties groups.
A letter sent by Home Office minister James Brokenshire to a committee of MPs considering legislation on DNA retention revealed that the profiles of innocent citizens will be retained, but anonymised and removed from the Police National Database.
However, while neither the police nor the Forensic Science Service (FSS) will be able to identify an individual, Brokenshire admitted that the information could theoretically be pieced back together.
"Members of the committee will be aware that most DNA records ... will include the original barcode, which is used by the police and the FSS to track the sample and resulting profile through the system," he said.
"It is therefore theoretically possible that a laboratory could identify an individual's profile from the barcode, but only in conjunction with the force which took the original sample, by giving details of the barcode of the force and asking for the individual's name."
V3 contacted Brokenshire for a copy of the letter, but had received no reply at the time of publication.
A Home Office spokesperson insisted that the government had not backtracked on its promises, and that any attempt to use the information to identify innocent citizens would break the law.
"Our position remains the same: we will take and retain the DNA of the guilty and remove innocent people from the database," the spokesperson said.
"Our proposals will see all profiles of innocent people removed from the DNA database. Police will not be able to access any profiles given by innocent people and any attempt to do so would be a criminal offence."
However, Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, maintained that the news represents a "disgraceful u-turn on the part of the government" and puts the UK in direct contravention of European law.
"It represents a betrayal of an explicit commitment made in the Coalition Agreement and stands in contravention of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights banning the retention of innocent people's DNA," he said.
"Destroying physical DNA samples is a pointless gesture if the computer records are to be retained. Despite paying lip service to freedom and civil liberties, this government is fast proving itself to be every bit as illiberal as its predecessor."
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