The UK National DNA Database: Implementation of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

Aaron Opoku Amankwaa, Carole McCartney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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In 2008, the European Court of Human Rights, in S and Marper v the United Kingdom, ruled that a retention regime that permits the indefinite retention of DNA records of both convicted and non-convicted (“innocent”) individuals is disproportionate. The court noted that there was inadequate evidence to justify the retention of DNA records of the innocent. Since the Marper ruling, the laws governing the taking, use, and retention of forensic DNA in England and Wales have changed with the enactment of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA). This Act, put briefly, permits the indefinite retention of DNA profiles of most convicted individuals and temporal retention for some first-time convicted minors and innocent individuals on the National DNA Database (NDNAD). The PoFA regime was implemented in October 2013. This paper examines ten post-implementation reports of the NDNAD Strategy Board (3), the NDNAD Ethics Group (3) and the Office of the Biometrics Commissioner (OBC) (4). Overall, the reports highlight a considerable improvement in the performance of the database, with a current match rate of 63.3%. Further, the new regime has strengthened the genetic privacy protection of UK citizens. The OBC reports detail implementation challenges ranging from technical, legal and procedural issues to sufficient understanding of the requirements of PoFA by police forces. Risks highlighted in these reports include the deletion of some “retainable” profiles, which could potentially lead to future crimes going undetected. A further risk is the illegal retention of some profiles from innocent individuals, which may lead to privacy issues and legal challenges. In conclusion, the PoFA regime appears to be working well, however, critical research is still needed to evaluate its overall efficacy compared to other retention regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-128
Number of pages12
JournalForensic Science International
Early online date5 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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