Move to extend holding of DNA in Scotland expected to face resistance

A BID to change the law to allow the police to hold the DNA of crime suspects for longer is set to be launched at Holyrood tomorrow.

Labour wants to double the length of time the authorities in Scotland can store innocent people's DNA profiles to six years.

Under existing rules north of the Border, the profiles of someone who is prosecuted but not convicted can be kept for three years.

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However, the DNA can be stored for six years in England and Wales, after the UK government changed the law in the run-up to the General Election.

The profiles of all those convicted of crimes are permanently kept by police forces.

Now Labour's community safety spokesman James Kelly will launch a move to bring Scotland into line with the rest of the UK at a meeting of Holyrood's justice committee tomorrow. He will table an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill being debated by the Scottish Parliament committee.

The Glasgow Rutherglen Labour MSP claimed it would make it easier to solve sexual or violent offences and convict dangerous criminals.

He said: "It simply does not make sense for Scotland to have weaker laws on DNA retention that the rest of the UK.

"Time and time again DNA evidence has proved to be an invaluable tool in fighting crime – helping to solve crime and secure convictions.

"If supported, my amendments will help catch serious offenders when they are picked up for a minor offence and their DNA is matched to samples already held." Mr Kelly went on to claim that DNA had played a key role in the conviction of John Morton, who admitted raping a teenage girl in West Dunbartonshire.

Morton had his DNA taken following a minor breach of the peace last year and it later matched to that taken from the sex attack.

Mr Kelly said: "

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DNA evidence has also proved to be useful in eliminating individuals from suspicion when their DNA does not match that found at a crime scene.

"It is vital that we strike the right balance between security of the citizen and an individual's right to privacy.

"I believe my proposals do that and I urge the justice committee to seize this opportunity to strengthen the law and bring Scotland in line with England and Wales."

However, Mr Kelly's bid to change the law is expected to be opposed by the three SNP members of the justice committee.

The Conservative convener of the committee, Bill Aitken, is also unlikely to back the law change, according to a party source.

Glasgow MSP Mr Aitken would hold the casting vote on the issue as head of the committee.

Lib Dem Glasgow MSP Robert Brown, a member of the committee, has also said he would not back the move.

However, the other two Labour MSPs on the committee are expected to support Mr Kelly's proposals.

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The Scottish Government defended the system of holding the DNA of suspects for three years.

A government spokesman said: "Scotland's DNA retention system has been widely praised. Anyone convicted by the courts of a criminal offence in Scotland has their DNA retained indefinitely.

"Those prosecuted, but not subsequently convicted, have their DNA retained for three years, and this can already be extended for those considered a risk to the public for two-year periods on a rolling basis."