back to article The DNA database and you

The National DNA Database (NDNAD) keeps growing: it now holds more than five million DNA profiles of individuals. Getting off the database, if you have been sampled by England or Wales forces, remain as unlikely as ever. And it remains difficult to make sense of the stats bandied at us, with the press quoting wildly differing …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    formal warning or reprimand?

    How many are on "formal warning or reprimand"? Is 'formal warning' or 'reprimand' a real crime or just an officers opinion?

    I don't class an officers opinion of a crime as definitive of anything, and I if it's just the opinion of the officer sans conviction, then "formal warning or reprimand" should also be included in the innocent count.

  2. Eddie Edwards
    Black Helicopters

    Does this mean ...

    Does this mean that 1 in 6 people who are arrested have done nothing wrong?

    That's pretty shocking in itself, isn't it?

  3. Dave


    How many of those classed as 'Guilty' were found guilty of something un-related to the need for DNA?

  4. Ben

    I didn't realise it was so many

    I'm on their black list - as are many hundreds of thousands of other people - without having committed a crime, or being cautioned/charge or anything else.

    It makes me angry everytime I think about it, and was one of the reasons I left the country.

    Living the UK had begun to feel oppressive, I hated being treated like a criminal, watched everywhere by CCTV, knowing that all my innocent conversations were nevertheless being monitored up at Blubberfields for the Americans, watching the way the police can get away with impunity with any behaviour they like.

    The upshot of all this survellance and police power is not a more peaceful and law abiding country, far from it. It is causing an escalation and confrontation with the state, whilst at the same time alienating people who believe in law for the sake of justice.

    Being constantly treated with suspicion and distrust by your own government is a disgusting way to have to live.

  5. Coalescence

    Piss Takers

    When a friend and I were in Middlesborough recently, he got stopped by the police for taking a piss in a back alley. (Don't get me started on this wasted of poilice resources, that's another matter)

    They then bundled into a van and took him to a makeshift police station, where they charged him £80 and took a DNA swap.

    Is this legal? I wouldn't expect getting my DNA taken for a parking offense or similar.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    If you do not commit crimes you have nothing to fear. In fact, this database will help people prove their innocence and mean less mis-carriages of justice (plus less wasted court time).

    Inter-linking this with benefits, DVLA, passports etc will mean less fraud, less illegal drivers, less illegal/unsavoury immigrants and a better Britain. Plus many more jobs in the IT sector!

    There is no down-side that I can see. We will finally be able to live in a society free from fear.

  7. h4rm0ny
    Paris Hilton


    Can I just copyright or patent my DNA sequence? It's mine after all. Then I can do them for unauthorised reproduction if they try it.

    Paris - because the only way the UK police force is going to get me to willingly give a DNA sample is if they get her working for them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just DNA DB but ContactPoint too

    We're never going to get this mess sorted out unless we have a change of government ( to a non-labour goverment that is).

    Notice the similarity betweeen the DNA database and the ContactPoint DB set up to protect children? ContactPoint is supposed to be a way of dealing with children who are at risk, well, that's what I thought. Proposed in the light of Victoria Climbie case, it was recognised that various child protection agencies: the police, doctors, social services, schools were not communicating with each other and children were at risk and the situation wasn't being dealt with along comes ContactPoint. I thought Children at risk would be placed upon it, or children which interested professionals had some suspicions the children may be abused, I thought it would be a way for interested professionals to identify who else was working with the at risk children, as way to improve communication.

    So, that being the case, why is every single child in the entire country on the database ( or will be be placed onto it), not just those at risk?

    We seem to be building large databases with very open criteria for determining who should be placed on to the database.

    And don't get me started on ECAF database, where in order for a ECAF record to be created, questions probing how the children are punished and what their religion is, and whether they go to church or whether they believe in God will be included!!

    I'm now convinced the government is trying to store as much conceivable image it can on the population, it's not about providing services to support the public, to protect children, it's about using the information so they can spy on every aspect of our lives;. to make predictions about us, whether we will become a 'danger' to the state, either in committing crime, or in some other subversive way.

    It's all about control and manipulation. It's not about benefitting us.

  9. Wayland Sothcott

    Will you still be innocent tomorrow?

    Many people can't understand why cars are not machanically governed to not go over 70mph. Many people think that if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide, yet regard those who have been questioned by police as being guilty. No smoke without fire.

    They could put the whole country in the DNA database if it was linked to organ doner registration and the ID card. I used to think the solution to the lack of organ doners was a system where you had to opt out otherwise they take your kidneys.

    So who should be in the DNA database?

    1. People suspected of the crime.

    2. People who's DNA needs to be elimiated from the crime.

    3. People being charged with the crime.

    People who should not be in the DNA database.

    1. People who have served time for the crime (no longer suspects).

    2. People who are in prison (good alibi).

    3. Innocent people.

    I am assuming people are innocent until proven guilty. So should everyone be a suspect of some past or future crime? If they are not a suspect in a crime being investigated then they should not be in the database.

    The only way this database can be fair is to include everyone as potential suspects. Anyone could be guilty of something. If the database only includes those under direct suspicion of a particular crime then it's hardly a database, just a case file. So to actually have a fair database it must include EVERYONE. I do think that is the plan they are following.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised there's complaints here.

    One in seven children, aren't the child of the father they think they are. For men with 4 kids, there's a 26% likelihood that the fourth child isn't theirs, as women are more likely to stray if.

    That's one in 3 men.

    Every child should be DNA tested at birth, to screen diseases, test for paternity - to stop chumps being taken advantage of, and assist in future crime detection.

  11. Adrian

    DNA Databases

    As a Database geek, my concern is not just that there are innocent people in the databases, but the question is how accurate is the database?

    Are there dna samples assigned to the wrong people?

    How well are changes and updates to the system audited and controlled?

    When there is a mistake, how easy is it to get the mistake rectified?

    DNA samples from crime scens are useful for solving crimes. Has the database increased the solve rate of crimes?

  12. Frumious Bandersnatch

    @Will you still be innocent tomorrow?

    Among people listed as "should be on the database" you list:

    > 2. People who's DNA needs to be elimi[n]ated from the crime.

    I think you're making a mistake there. If the person submits a DNA sample and it clears them of the crime, there should be no reason for that sample/analysis to be stored in any database. Let them give a sample to clear their name, but don't store the sample/data afterwards. No?

  13. b

    re: There is no down-side that I can see

    Where is the belming icon?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    this government....

    "How many are on "formal warning or reprimand"? Is 'formal warning' or 'reprimand' a real crime or just an officers opinion?"

    good point... if you haven't been convicted in a court of law then by definityion you aren't (legally) guilty of anything so those people are all legalyl innocent.

    now.. in the uk leagal system as i understand it (when it works)...


    1 commit a crime

    2 become a suspect

    3 get arrested and then charged

    4 go to court

    5 go to prison

    6 get released

    once you hit step 6 you have served your time and there shoudl be no further restrictions upon you. so you are only a guilty person for stage 5 (prison)!

    when i'm guilty of commiting a crime against the state then fine, they can have my DNA profile.

    they can ask for it if i'm accused of something and it will look pretty dodgy (though it shouldn't) if i say no, but there is no just perogative for the state to require me to give it to them as... i'm innocent until proven guilty.

    go away you nasty, nasty government.

    it's my DNA, not yours.

    you don't own me, you only have power because myself and my fellow citizens voted to give it to you (and similarly should be able to take it away at any time) - isn't it supposed to be government of the people, by the people and for the people? - american i know, but i would have hoped that it also applied to other democracies) .

    i think we getting perilously close to a culture and a legal system where everyone is "guilty until proven innocent".

    i detest this government. they are screwing with the very fundamentals of the british legal system and way of life.

  15. Max Jalil
    Black Helicopters

    Have they not heard of deduplication?

    RE: Total number of subject profiles v Estimated total number of individuals

    I am concerned that if they have to estimate the number of individuals their samples are taken from the process of matching one individual to the database is not as precise as is made out.

    The estimate could be due to uncertainty in the number of identicat twins or other clones in the system!

  16. Frumious Bandersnatch

    @"not a crim, nothing to fear" AC

    On the contrary, there are plenty of risks of any database of innocent people. You're just trotting out the same "if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear [about intrusive data collection/spying/Big Brother]" line. In fact, your last line that "[w]e will finally be able to live in a society free from fear" clearly shows you are living in a fantasy world. Here's a good article which mentions some risks of a DNA database:


    > As with most much hailed, cure-all solutions, the gritty reality is with concerns and dangers. Some are issues of principle around the civil liberties agenda and equalities. Some are issues of a more practical nature: of fallibility, of misuse and abuse, of security and lack of safeguard, and of possible commercial use and abuse of DNA information.


    > Additionally, one third of the black population of England and Wales is already on the database – a far higher proportion that for other people.

    So not only is there a risk that DNA sampling will be misapplied (used to go after targets of prejudice rather than being used in an even-handed way) but we can plainly see that this risk is being actualised here.

    Social problems need social solutions. Technology may allow us to do wonderful things (and DNA evidence is quite nifty in crime scene analysis) but widespread use of technological measures to deal with social ills is fraught with all sorts of risks, and can never be a satisfactory substitute for real social solutions.

  17. Andrew Culpeck
    Thumb Down

    Wahat control ?

    This is about jobs for the boys, or polititions making friends with business just in case. Look again at how many crimes are solved by this data and ask how it can be justified. Also remember if you DNA turns up in there search how likly are the police to check if you have a record.

    There is a good example all be it involving finger prints of a student pulled in by the police because they found his finger prints. They where on record inspite of him never being accused of a crime becase the pioce picked him up by mistake and took his prints before this was found out. He was woken at night bundeled into a cell and offerd a caution for the crime of sending cristmass cards through a post box that had been vandalised.

    How many scared counil estate kids would have accepted the criminal record and a caution just to get out the ploioce station.

  18. Frumious Bandersnatch


    Nice try, but no.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ formal warning or reprimand?

    "How many are on "formal warning or reprimand"? Is 'formal warning' or 'reprimand' a real crime or just an officers opinion?"

    To be given a Formal Warning or Reprimand you must have admitted your guilt for the offence. If you haven't made a full admission, then you will not be given a Formal Warning or Reprimand (or a Caution, for that matter).


    "When a friend and I were in Middlesborough recently, he got stopped by the police for taking a piss in a back alley....They then bundled into a van and took him to a makeshift police station, where they charged him £80 and took a DNA swap. Is this legal? I wouldn't expect getting my DNA taken for a parking offense or similar."

    I assume he was arrested for causing harassment, alarm or distress (what Plod refers to as a Section 5 Public Order Act offence). If so, this is a Recordable Offence, and Plod can take DNA and fingerprints. They appear to have dealt with your friend by way of a fixed penalty notice, which is the way they do things these days, as it means the matter doesn't go to court (unless your friend pleads not guilty, and demands a court hearing).


    I would never voluntarily give my DNA to Plod for "elimination purposes" or suchlike. Once they have it, they will put it on their database, and it will be there for ever, despite what happens in the future. How can they prove to anyone's satisfaction that they have removed a profile from the database?? I don't think they can...

  20. RichyS


    Adding more hay to the haystack does not make the needle easier to find.

  21. Mister Cheese


    Let us all know where your friend lives, and we can start treating his house walls like a toilet.

    It's disgusting, it's criminal damage, it's smelly... I bet he didn't wash his hands afterwards either. Quite right to take a copy - next time the police find a patch of pee somewhere, they can (if they so desire) take a swab and run it through their system. If it happens to be your friend again, well, he clearly hasn't learned from the first offence.

    A parking offence is generally a civil matter - hence no DNA entry required.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    No downside?? Being on the databse myself (for a misdemeanour many years ago for which I have paid the price and repented) I personally can't wait until someone takes some of my hair/spittle/flake of skin and plants it at a murder scene; because then I would have to disprove the overwhelming "14million to 1 evidence" that I had commited that murder.

    Reminds me of the case where a poor mother was accused of murdering both her children because the statistical likelyhood was shown to be millions to 1 of the same illness occuring to children in the same family. Turns out it was a genetic thing. Which was nice.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    I see the idiots are out in force.

    Please, before posting stuff like "I've got nothing to hide" or "if you're innocent, you have nothing to fear", just spend a couple of minutes searching and reading. If you really need help finding out why you are so monumentally wrong, try looking for SSRN-id998565

    p.s. If you still disagree after reading that, and honestly don't mind being on the database, then please feel free to send me a copy of your latest credit card bill and the contents of your hoover bag...

  24. Matthew


    ContactPoint will not hold the details of all children in the country, children of politicians and celebrities will be excluded. (WTF!!!)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freedom of information act...

    If you are on this database can you request a printed copy of your DNA?

  26. Mark

    re: I'm surprised there's complaints here

    Why do you have to be the genetic parent of a child to love your children?

  27. Frumious Bandersnatch

    @Mister Cheese

    Hmmm... maybe they should arrest the makers of Le Piat D'or. After all, they're obviously inciting people to, well, you know.

  28. ElFatbob

    @AC: There is no down-side that I can see

    @AC: There is no down-side that I can see

    Very funny - you nearly had me in rant mode there!

    @RotaCyclic Re Contactpoint

    Not every child. Apart from the Politician / Celeb exclusions, i think all children in Scotland are also out of scope. AFAIK, a similar db does not exist up here........ yet

  29. Adrian Ip

    but surely NDNAD is not an appropriate acronym?

    I propose it be changed to NADNAD which rolls off the tongue a lot better and even works! :)

  30. Tom

    @ first ac RE: 'Eh?'

    Ever watched the film 'minority report' maybe the MI5 office you're working from will have a copy in the archive...

  31. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    @ No Down side

    Excellent. I'm in the process of building a database myself, as it happens. Please send my your name, address, contact number, fingerprints and a sample of your DNA, and I'll add you to the file.

  32. Giles Jones Gold badge


    Nothing to fear? how about contamination?

    Or suppose you worked in a clothes store, sold someone clothing which was then used in a crime. Suppose your DNA (hair) was on that item of clothing and got collected.

    Now if you're in the database you would immediately become a suspect! It would then be up to you to prove your innocence (guilty until proven innocent).

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @giles jones

    You beat me to it except I was going to say that clothing donated to a charity shop will carry your DNA which will then be purchased by an undesirable to commit crime thus placing you in the brown stuff.

    Mines the coat covered with DNA.

  34. radian
    Thumb Down

    not unique?

    I'm pretty sure that although they take your whole DNA sequence, when it comes to checking for criminal activity they only look at certain markers, not the whole sequence. If that's correct, then your chances of being wrongly accused of a crime are a lot higher than is generally thought and a nightmare to prove your innocence.

    I seem to remember reading about a guy who was accused of rape after his DNA was matched to that which was found on the victim. Problem was he was white and even though the victim repeatedly told the police the attacker was black, the police wouldn't back down because as far as they were concerned, the DNA evidence was beyond doubt.

    Although the guy was eventually found to be innocent, his life had been ruined by this but it's ok because he had nothing to hide or fear.

  35. citizenx

    Re: AC

    >If you do not commit crimes you have nothing to fear. In fact, this database will help people prove their innocence and mean less mis-carriages of justice (plus less wasted court time).

    It is NOT the place of the citizen to prove their INNOCENCE. It is the place of the state to prove their GUILT.

    No wonder we're in such a mess when people think like this. What absolute nonsense!

  36. David Mery

    @not unique


    A DNA profile is obtained by:

    * extracting the DNA from a sample (blood, saliva, semen, sweat or other biological material);

    * measuring the amount of DNA obtained;

    * producing multiple copies of specific areas of DNA of interest (these correspond to the ‘markers’ referred to below); and

    * cataloguing the size of each marker in the particular individual from whom the DNA came.

    The technique currently used for DNA profiling in the United Kingdom is SGM Plus®(SGM+). It tests for ten ‘markers’, known as short tandem repeats (STRs), and a sex marker. STRs are short sequences of DNA that are repeated in tandem several times, and the number of repeats varies between individuals. The number of repeats is recorded and thus, a DNA profile consists of 20 two-digit numbers (each person has two copies of each marker, one inherited from each parent), and a sex indicator. The probability of a chance match between unrelated individuals using SGM+ is on average less than one in a billion (1,000,000,000). The discriminatory power of the analysis decreases for related individuals. SGM, a technique used before the introduction of SGM+, analysed six of the same markers plus the gender marker and had a lower discriminatory power. A proportion of the profiles on the NDNAD are based on SGM (22 per cent of criminal justice samples and 19 per cent of crime scene samples). When a current crime scene sample matches an SGM profile, the relevant biological sample is retrieved and the profile is upgraded to SGM+. A recent retrospective upgrade of 24,000 cases from SGM to SGM+ found that there were 3,600 cases where the profiles had originally matched using SGM, but no longer matched when using SGM+ profiling. To date, there have been no reports of chance matches between full SGM+ profiles. Chance matches are, however, more likely to arise:

    * with partial profiles;

    * between closely related individuals;

    * as the size of the NDNAD expands; and

    * between individuals within an isolated or inbred population.

    ...and from

    6.2 Match probability

    The probability of two DNA profiles matching depends on the nature of the DNA profile and the circumstances of the case. A full SGM+ to SGM+ match is the most powerful. The strength of the match decreases if the profile is SGM or partial and there is an increased risk of the match being by chance.

    Although a person’s DNA is unique (except for identical twins, triplets etc.), some individuals who are closely related e.g. siblings may appear to have a similar profile. This occurs because they have inherited their DNA in different proportions from the same parents. The value of a match in a given case may therefore be weakened if there is a possibility that the offender could have been a close relative of the suspect.

    Because the match probability depends on the fullness of the profile and the circumstances of the case, a match probability figure is not provided with a match report and the police and CPS should liaise with the scientist to assess the value of the evidence.

    6.3 Chance matches

    A match between two profiles on the NDNAD can occur simply by chance. This risk is very low when full SGM+ profiles are involved. However, the risk increases if partial or SGM profiles are involved and therefore, there is a significant chance that a match involving a partial profile or SGM profile may not match when the profile is upgraded to SGM+. Consequently, the laboratory should be asked to upgrade matches based on partial or SGM profiles. This is normally arranged via the force DNA Submissions Unit when the match report is received.

    br -d

  37. radian

    @ David Mery

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  38. David Pollard

    @ Eddie Edwards

    "Does this mean that 1 in 6 people who are arrested have done nothing wrong?"

    With the best will in the worlds a proportion of arrests are likely to be mistakes. What's worse is that a significant proportion of convictions are wrongful or unsound.

    Though Merkins often come in for criticism, in the USA there has apparently been a proactive programme to use DNA profiling in those cases where it had not been available at the time of conviction and where it could provide an indication of innocence. It's telling that there has been nothing like this in the UK, despite the relative ease with which it could be implemented.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Only a minor exaggeration

    >> 'If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.'

    But what is 'nothing wrong'? Ok, murder and raping dolphins are pretty obviously Wrong Things(TM). But who knows, maybe eugenics comes into vogue again and a database of DNA is pretty darn handy then. Ask yourself, do you feel synergy between your families health care history and the eugenicist standpoint??

    Governments and medical scientists; working together for a better tomorrow.

    It's not unprecedented, ya know...

  40. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Gnnnh

    What a good and apposite noise.

    If you've got nothing to hide, hand over all your clothes.


  41. Adam Hibbert

    What else is in there, besides ID info?

    The 'mostly harmless' account of the variables held in each profile can't be the whole story. Surely each profile also describes or gives a link to the circumstances under which the sample was taken? In which case ...

    [ICON] None, because there's no face/boot option.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is all this money being spent on a database that has a 0.36% chance of actually catching a criminal??

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Low copy number DNA testing is what we should be scared of

    I am on the database despite acquittal and like anyone else with "nothing to hide" I am fearful of the knock on the door thanks to the appallingly bad science used in the UK by the forensic science service.

    It was only with the disclosure in the Omagh bombing case that a low copy number DNA sample was "unreliable" and that the police effectively cooked the evidence before anyone realised that this technique was so bad.

    What is worse is that LCN DNA can give several positive responses yet the CPS whilst in theory should disclose those obviously do not. It was reported that the Omagh sample also matched a 14 year old boy as well whose DNA was on the database thanks to a CSA paternity query. If you have ever wondered the CPS get disclosure "wrong" in 25% of cases at the first round, and having spent 2 years fighting for disclosures of the evidence that proved I was innocent I would suggest that anyone who thinks we have a fair and reasonable justice system thinks again.

    I trust the "nothing to hide" brigade will take a 30 year sentence on the chin for the greater good when they get fingered thanks to bad science and the corrupt actions of our nations justice system.

  44. David Mery

    Re: What else is in there, besides ID info?

    Profiles do not include details of the reason for arrest, this is the reason why the police can't apparently easily analyse the NDNAD in relation to the circumstances of arrest.

    You can see a DNA profile at

    (I've obscured the DNA markers' information. It was provided to me by Kevin Reynolds. See for more context)

    Also from

    All subject sample records on The National DNA Database are uniquely identified by a bar code number (supplied with the sampling kits). In addition to the DNA profile, they also contain information about the subject’s name, date of birth, ethnic appearance and gender; information relating to the sampling force and the supplier laboratory to which the sample was submitted and details of the sample type and the test type. Records relating to samples taken under PACE also contain the Arrest Summons Number (ASN), which facilitates reconciliation of data with the Police National Computer (PNC). The type of offence for which the subject sample was taken is not recorded.

    br -d

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "there is no personal cost or disadvantage by being on it"

    Actually I can think of 1 disadvantage

    If they commit a crime they are more likely to be caught than the rest of society who are committing crimes but not on the database due to sheer luck.

    I somehow don't think they would like that argument though. Nevertheless it is true, and certainly a personal disadvantage...heh

    coalescence I'd be interested to know what a DNA SWAP is. That sounds even scarier than just having your DNA taken...

    DNA is personal, and what right do the police have to store it when you haven't committed a crime? "Oh, you might one day" In that case, why don't they lock us all in our houses and put bars over the exits? After all, SOME of society will end up in jail. So we might as well fast-forward and take "preventative measures."

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like