Operation Nutmeg

Since the start of Operation Nutmeg about 111 out of 6,204 samples taken have been matched to a crime scene. Now an ex-prisoner has lost his legal challenge at the High Court against a request by police for him to provide DNA samples.

In April 2010, the Crime and Security Act 2010 received Royal Assent. This provided additional police powers allowing the police to take fingerprints and DNA samples for qualifying offences from convicted persons where none had been taken before. These new powers heralded the start of Operation Nutmeg in September 2012 and enabled police forces in England and Wales to obtain DNA samples from approximately 14,000 people convicted of specified qualifying offences including homicides, violent crimes and serious sexual assault. Under the Crime and Security Act police have the power to force offenders to provide a sample.

The offences they committed may well have taken place prior to 1994 and before DNA samples were taken as a matter of routine. Many of these offenders will have served their sentence and be living back in the community. The hope is that these new samples could be used to solve old cases which remain unsolved. The DNA details of over five million people are currently stored on the national database.

 

A pilot scheme which took place in Hampshire involved samples of DNA being taken from a number of convicted criminals, none of the swabs which were collected were able to be linked to any unsolved cases at that time but Ms Cooper, director of information, science and technology at Thames Valley Police, insisted it was "only a matter of time" before such a case was solved in England and Wales through the efforts of Operation Nutmeg.

Since the start of Operation Nutmeg about 1.78% of the samples (111 out of 6,204 samples) taken have been matched to a crime scene.

Now an ex-prisoner has lost his legal challenge at the High Court against a request by police for him to provide DNA samples. He does not dispute that he committed a serious crime in 1999 and had been jailed for manslaughter in the 1980s but says he has turned his life around since then and that his human rights had been breached. A pro-forma letter had been delivered to him because of his previous convictions and asked him to provide a DNA sample.

Lawyers for the ex-prisoner argued that the request infringed his human rights, but Lord Justice Pitchford, at the High Court, said the request was both "lawful and proportionate". The ex-prisoner, referred to as R, is considering whether he should appeal against the ruling.

The Association of Chief Police Officers welcomed the ruling and said DNA evidence was a "vital tool". If R's challenge had been successful the police could have been forced to destroy thousands of samples.

R v A Chief Constable [2013] EWHC 2864 (Admin) - British and Irish ..

ACPO Media Centre - ACPO comment on Operation Nutmeg

Ex-prisoner fails to halt police DNA-collection programme

 

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