Thu, 16 Jul 2009

National DNA Database custodian annual report

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), custodian of the National DNA Database (NDNAD), has published its Annual report and accounts 2008-09 (pdf). Below are annotated extracts about the NDNAD:


National DNA Database

The DNA Database is used by the police to identify offenders and eliminate people from enquiries.

* Based on actual figures for Q1- 2 of 2008/09 projected for the full year

These figures are misleading as most matches will be with individuals having nothing to do with the crime and hence do not result in prosecutions or convictions. Also included are false matches that occur when the DNA profile from the crime scene is not complete. Many matches occur with victims or passers-by or are false matches. For instance if a crime happens in a pub, most of those going for a drink that night whose DNA profile happens to be on the NDNAD will be counted as successfull matches. You don't even need to have been to that pub for your DNA to be matched if you shook hands with a friend who then went to that pub and left some of your DNA on his pint glass. For more info see the Ten myths about the National DNA Database or GeneWatch UK's evidence to the European Court of Human Rights (doc).

As the database gets bigger, the number of false matches will increase. The growth of the National DNA Database increases the risk of miscarriages of justice.

Detections' are crimes that have been recorded as 'cleared up' by the police. Here's GeneWatch UK's analysis in its evidence to the ECtHR: "[O]nly about half of these [detections] are ‘new’ detections, which require the Database – in the other cases the suspect will already have been identified prior to collection of their DNA. These figures are dominated by volume crimes, such as burglaries, and separate figures are not available for more serious crimes such as rape and murder, for which the Database is less effective."


We are leading the programme to connect the UK to the second generation Schengen Information System in time for 2012. When complete this will allow UK police forces to share and access a European data system that holds alerts on wanted and missing people, stolen vehicles, and certain categories of property.

Also linked to cross-boundary information sharing, last year we carried out a Scoping Study to look at implementation of the Prüm programme. Prüm provides for the cross-border sharing/availability of DNA, fingerprints and motor vehicle registration data on a 24/7 basis. It is designed to intensify cross-border police co-operation, especially in the fight against terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal migration.

Here's a bit more details of what's in store in the EU-Prüm-Decision (derived from the Treaty of Prüm) courtesy of DNA database management review and recommendations 2009 (pdf), a document published by the DNA Working Group of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI): "The EU-Prüm-Decision deals with the exchange of judicial and police information between the EU-member states and some associated countries (Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland). With regards to DNA countries are allowed to search in each other’s DNA-database. To enable this each country creates a copy of its DNA-database with a standardized table structure which can be accessed by common data-exchange and DNA-comparison software which is present in each country. The DNA data exchange and matching system used by the EU member states is similar to DNA data exchange and matching system of the Interpol DNA Gateway. [...] the Prüm DNA-profile exchange system is a hit-no-hit-system meaning that only DNA-profiles are compared. After finding a match, countries can obtain the personal and/or case information associated with the DNA-profile via existing police or judicial channels."


At the end of the financial year 2008/09, the principal risks facing the NPIA included those listed below. All risks and uncertainties listed here are being managed effectively through an internal control system.

The cost of automated deletion of DNA profiles is estimated at £15,000 (programming cost) in the Home Office consultation. The consultation also mentions as a risk: "deleting the wrong record leading to potential for miscarriages of justice of missed opportunities to detect crime."

Manual deletion after 6 year period, unless individual concerned has been re-arrested or convicted during this period is estimated to cost £52,170,000 over a 20 year period, while deletion upon request from individual concerned after a 6 year period, unless individual concerned has been re-arrested or convicted during this period is estimated at £7,385,000. There's a clear economic argument to automate the deletion process, but to put things in perspective, "[t]he police spend on forensics is estimated to be in the region of £500 million per annum". There are of course many other reasons, already mentioned on this blog, why it's a good idea to have a robust deletion process and use it!


In 2009/10 the National DNA Database and associated services will be transferred from the Forensic Science Service (FSS) to NPIA in order to enhance the security and disaster recovery of the database. This will involve the corresponding staff from the FSS.

FSS is currently contracted to operate and maintain the NDNAD. This contract is overseen by the NPIA. The NPIA website still lists end of 2008 as the end date for this contract, however it has been renewed. The eventual transfer of the NDNAD, services and staff from the FSS to the NPIA is news to this reporter. It appears to be part of a wider programme called Forensics21. This programme was "the first to receive approval by the tripartite commissioning body made up of ACPO, the Association of Police Authorities (APA) and the Home Office, and marks a very different approach to delivering transformational change in policing".


To support the NPIA’s commitment to promote equality, the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights (EDHR) unit [...] has continued to support the NPIA to complete equality impact assessments on policy, procedure, function, strategy and products. [..] This year, key support has been provided to the impact assessment of the National DNA Database, the IMPACT Programme and the National Police Promotions Framework.

This is an assessment to determine, or more likely confirm, the racial bias on the NDNAD.


2008/09 Restated 2007/08
Full Cost
Full Cost
National DNA Database (NDNAD) 9,517 1,337 (8,180) 8,877 1,131 (7,746)


National DNA Database

Charges are levied to cover the costs of accrediting the scientific laboratories that analyse DNA samples and send profiles to the Database.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Forensic Science Service (FSS), LGC Forensics Ltd. and Orchid Cellmark are laboratories accredited to analyse and store DNA samples, and upload DNA profiles. In Scotland, the Police Forensic Science Laboratory Dundee is accredited.


Business area Achievement
Police Science and Forensics Strategy team
Carl Jennings
Sue Mitchell
Ann Fairweather
Caroline Goryll
For outstanding work and quality in the
production of a large quantity of DNA Database
Parliamentary Questions

Relevant parliamentary questions can be searched using tools such as TheyWorkForYou and GeneWatch UK publishes monthly documents on its DNA database: Parliament and consultations page.

(Hat tip to Spyblog: National Policing Improvement Agency annual report and accounts 2008-09 - mobile handheld computers, ANPR database, DNA database, PNC, IMPACT, Aircell for the Tube, Prüm)

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