DNA database debate – truth and illusion

09 April 2010

Today Liberty’s director responded to suggestions that the case of Sally Anne Bowman was only solved by holding the DNA of unconvicted individuals on the database. This could not be further from the truth

Mark Dixie, convicted in 2008 for the murder of Sally Anne Bowman, was arrested nine months after the crime for his role in a pub brawl. It was this DNA swab that revealed his link to Sally Anne’s murder after it was uploaded to the national DNA database and matched with the unidentified crime scene DNA. Mark Dixie was then arrested, charged and prosecuted for Sally Anne’s rape and murder. 

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“Election fever seems to be confusing the debate about DNA retention. It has been suggested that the tragic case of Sally Anne Bowman was only solved because her murderer was “an innocent” on the database. In fact, he was arrested for a separate violent offence and it was then that his DNA was matched to the crime scene.

We all agree that DNA taken on arrest should be checked against unsolved crimes - this is entirely different from stockpiling the DNA of innocent men, women and children for years on end.”

The decision in the S & Marper case and the implementation of the “Scottish model” in England and Wales would not prevent DNA that is taken on arrest being compared with unidentified crime scene DNA on the database as happened in the Dixie case. DNA could continue to be taken on arrest, uploaded on to the database while the investigation is ongoing before either being destroyed once an investigation has ceased or retained following a conviction. Comparing the DNA of someone who has been arrested for a violent or sexual offence with past crime scene DNA, is very different to the long term retention of the DNA of innocent people.

Contact: Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831 128