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The University of Southampton
Southampton Law School

How effective is the DNA database?

Published: 1 December 2009

Jonathan Montgomery, Professor in Health Care Law, says more research needs to be carried out into the contribution DNA databases make towards fighting crime.

He says, "DNA evidence is important in the investigation of crime, but it’s far from clear that a database plays an effective role. We know that matches have been made between crime scenes and people’s profiles on the national database, but we don’t know if this is helping police investigations. We also don’t know if the same people would have been identified anyway, without a database."

Professor Montgomery, a respected expert on medical ethics, goes on to call for a discussion in Parliament about the purpose and limits of the database.

"There has not yet been a public debate to establish the correct balance between our private interest to privacy and our public interest in investigating crime," he says.

Professor Montgomery is Chairman of the Human Genetics Commission and makes his comments following the release of a report by the HGC into the national DNA database, which holds around five million profiles of people arrested in the UK. Currently everyone arrested for an offence which could lead to a criminal record has their DNA taken and recorded.

He is also voicing concerns that the database has been transformed over the years from a database of offenders, to a database of suspects.

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