Complex DNA law needs rewrite

Publication Date 
20 November 2017

The law that covers police obtaining and using DNA in criminal investigations is too complicated says Law Commissioner Donna Buckingham.

DNA contains a huge amount of personal information. It is therefore important that the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 is clear and protects people’s rights.

Donna Buckingham is responding to the Court of Appeal decision, R v Toki.

In that case, Police used an incomplete template form that did not give Mr Toki full information about his rights when he voluntarily gave a DNA sample. The Court ruled that Mr Toki’s DNA evidence was inadmissible.

Police now say 3677 people had their DNA taken unlawfully between September 2010 and August 2014 due to using the faulty form.

Donna Buckingham says obtaining someone’s DNA is a significant invasion on someone’s privacy. As the Court noted:

"…DNA is not a mere fingerprint: it contains a wealth of genetic information about a person with unlimited future utility. The one-off intrusion of the procedure thus permanently erodes Mr Toki’s privacy and freedom…"

The Law Commission is currently reviewing the law that covers police obtaining and using DNA in criminal investigations.

Ms Buckingham says the Commission is seeking people’s input as it carries out its review.