The DNA profiles of 800,000 innocent citizens stored on police databases are to be destroyed, the government will announce this week.
The move follows a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in December that keeping the samples “could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society”.
Those on the England and Wales database despite having no criminal conviction include people who were arrested but never charged and others who have been acquitted in court.
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Police argued the information was a key weapon in fighting crime but civil rights groups welcomed the government announcement, to be made by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith this week.
Miss Smith told the Observer: “It is crucial that we do everything we can to keep the public safe from crime and bring offenders to justice. The DNA database plays a vital role in helping us do that. However, there has to be a balance between the need to protect the public and respecting their rights. Based on risks versus benefits, our view is that we can now destroy all samples.”
In reality the government had little choice but to comply with the human rights court ruling.