Labour determined to hold rape suspects’ DNA ‘for years’

Rape suspects should have their DNA held on record for years even if they are not charged, Labour's Yvette Cooper has said.

The shadow home secretary said the "limited impact on privacy of holding a DNA code" was justified because of historic problems in securing rape convictions.

DNA retention has proved effective in catching repeat offenders. But civil liberties campaigners will be concerned a return to government by Labour after the next general election could result in another expansion of the DNA database for those who are not even charged of a criminal offence.

Around 5,000 people a year are arrested on suspicion of rape but are not charged.

The coalition reneged on its promise to remove all on the database who had not been charged by anonymising, rather than deleting, its computer records.

This would allow government authorities to identify past suspects' records by liaising with the police force which took the original sample.

"I think there are a series of areas where the law should be changed because stronger powers are needed – justified by the evidence and proportionate to the harm being caused," Cooper said in a speech at the think-tank Demos.

"For example the DNA of rape suspects should be held for several years, not destroyed immediately just because they can't be charged."

Cooper emphasised the need for Labour to do more to promote policy based on the public interest, work harder to ensure new powers and interventions are proportionate and "make sure there are proper checks and balances in place".

She also announced Labour would seek to deprive gun licences from those who have a record of domestic violence, give councils and the police the power to impose dog control orders and toughen up the control regime for terrorist prevention and investigation orders (TPIMs).

"We must argue strongly for the importance of both liberty and security and be clear that there is no simple trade-off between the two," Cooper added.

"Too often in the past we have been trapped into appearing to have to make a simple choice between liberty and security, or between rights and responsibilities.

"A 'one nation' Labour approach needs to value both liberty and security and demonstrate the strong interdependence between them."