DNA of innocent to be held for six years

Human rights groups angered as ministers insist profiles of innocent people must be retained

Details of how long the DNA profiles of innocent people arrested in England and Wales can be kept on the national database are due to be unveiled by ministers.

The Home Office is expected to announce that adults arrested but cleared, will have their DNA profiles removed from the database after six years.

The move comes a year after the European Court of Human Rights said the existing indefinite limit was unfair. The court ruled that the system breached basic rights because it allowed police to retain the samples of anyone arrested in an investigation, even if they were later neither charged nor convicted.

In response the Home Office deleted the profiles of children under 10 years old and will now decide how to deal with the rest of the estimated one million profiles.

The government is expected to abandon plans to hold some profiles for as long as 12 years.

Ministers argue that retaining samples has helped track down offenders in other cases. They point to cases such as the murder of Sally Anne Bowman which was solved after her killer Mark Dixie was identified based on the profile stored after an earlier arrest.

But human rights group warned that the government had put itself on course for further clashes with the judiciary.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "It seems the Government still refuses to separate the innocent and the guilty and maintains a blanket approach to DNA retention.

"This grudgingly modified policy creates a repeat collision course with the courts and ministers look stubborn rather than effective or fair. Nobody disputes the value of DNA and anyone arrested can have a sample taken and compared to crime scenes. But stockpiling the intimate profiles of millions of innocent people is an unnecessary recipe for error and abuse."

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have called for a parliamentary vote to be held on the database.