DNA samples: When you have to give a sample
Giving a DNA sample for the DNA databank
What is the DNA profile databank?
The police maintain a database of DNA profiles that they’ve collected from bodily samples, to use in future criminal investigations. However, there are restrictions on which DNA profiles the police can keep.
What can the police use the DNA databank for?
The police can only access the information in the DNA profile databank if they need to compare it with evidence that they’ve collected in a criminal investigation.
When can the police collect samples for the DNA databank?
The police have specific powers to collect DNA samples for the DNA profile databank, in addition to the powers they have when they’ve arrested someone or got a court order (see above). As explained below, samples can be collected from you for the databank in one of two ways:
- with your consent
- by a databank compulsion notice, without your consent.
Collecting samples for the DNA databank by consent
If you’re 18 or older the police can ask you to give a DNA sample for the DNA databank. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to give a sample. The police can’t ask you if you’re under 18.
The police must give you information about your rights and the processes for taking and analysing the sample. As well as giving you a written notice, they must also tell you certain key things, in a way and in language you can understand, including:
- why they want the sample
- that you don’t have to give the sample, and that if you consent to giving it, you can withdraw your consent at any time before giving it
- that you may want to talk to a lawyer before deciding whether to consent
- that after the sample is analysed, you could be charged with a criminal offence
- that at any time after the sample is taken you can withdraw your consent to the police using the sample (with some exceptions).
If you’re in police custody when they ask you for the sample, you have the right to talk to a lawyer about this.
Databank compulsion notices
Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995, ss 39–45, 54,
If you’ve been convicted of an offence for which you could be jailed, the police can give you a databank compulsion notice, requiring you to give a DNA sample for the DNA databank. However, you can ask for a court hearing to oppose the requirement to provide a sample.
If you don’t give the sample when required, including if you’ve been unsuccessful after a court hearing, the police can apply to a judge for a warrant to arrest and hold you until they can take a sample. If you still refuse to give a sample, the police can use reasonable force to allow a suitably qualified person to take the sample.