Ipswich backing for national DNA records

AS THE debate over DNA records hots up, Ipswich borough leader Liz Harsant today backed calls for a national database.Mrs Harsant, who is also a trustee of the Somebody's Daughter appeal set up in the wake of Steve Wright's orgy of murder in the town, supported calls from senior police officers.

AS THE debate over DNA records hots up, Ipswich borough leader Liz Harsant today backed calls for a national database.

Mrs Harsant, who is also a trustee of the Somebody's Daughter appeal set up in the wake of Steve Wright's orgy of murder in the town, supported calls from senior police officers.

Wright was caught after DNA found on three of the bodies matched a sample he had given four years earlier when arrested for the theft of £80 in Felixstowe.

It provided the breakthrough detectives had been looking for, allowed them to make a quick arrest . . . and prevented the monster from searching for further victims.

The question of creating a national DNA database arose again the day after he was found guilty when an Old Bailey jury convicted Mark Dixie of the murder of Sally Anne Bowman - again the breakthrough came after a DNA match was found when he was tested following a minor offence.

Det Supt Stewart Cundy, who led the inquiry into Miss Bowman's murder, called for the establishment of such a register - pointing out Dixie could have been identified within 24 hours.

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In the event he was free for a further nine months, until he was arrested after being involved in bar brawl.

However the Home Office, leading opposition politicians and the civil liberties group Liberty have all come out against such a move.

Today Mrs Harsant said: “I've got no objections to a national DNA database whatsoever. It's not quite the same as ID cards.

“If it catches several killers like Steve Wright and that dreadful Mark Dixie then it has to be there.

“From a policing point of view anything that helps to catch perpetrators of crimes against innocent people is a good thing.

“There are argument about civil liberties but I don't see what there is to worry about, isn't it all for the better?”

The leading Conservative was speaking after her party's Home Affairs spokesman David Davis came out against such a move.

He said: “I am not in favour of a move which would criminalise everyone in society but there have to be ways of improving the existing DNA database.

“It is extraordinary that until we started asking questions there were still 5,000 prisoners in British jails whose DNA was not kept on the database.”

The Crown Advocates from the Crown Prosecution Service who helped police form their case against Wright said DNA was the crucial factor in arresting him and later securing his conviction.

Mike Crimp said DNA was at the "heart of the prosecution case" and was the single trigger for Wright's arrest.

"It was literally just a DNA match," he said.

"The DNA evidence on which we based the charge was that his DNA was in significant quantities on the three bodies of the victims who were found on dry land and no other person had left DNA on more than one of the bodies.

"When we made the decision to charge we did it on the basis of the DNA evidence."

Detective Superintendent Roy Lambert, who headed the Anneli Alderton murder inquiry, which was the first of the five to yield traces of Wright's genetic calling card, said DNA was the "main plank" of the police case against Wright.

He said tests had initially revealed the presence of DNA on the bodies of Miss Alderton and later Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell but it was not until the Sunday before Wright's arrest on Tuesday, December 19, 2006 that scientists discovered the match to Wright's DNA on the national database.

Without the DNA match Wright was, he said, "just a person on the database who had been spoken to. As were thousands of other people," he said.

A spokesman for the Home Office said a national database was not on the agenda: “It would raise significant practical and ethical issues,” he added.

And Shami Chakrabati of Liberty said was natural there would be a debate after the two high-profile cases over the last week.

She said: “Britain has more people's DNA stored on the national database than any other country. There needs to be a real debate on what levels of crime should result in inclusion on the database.”

The database currently contains records about 4.5 million Britons - including 80 per cent of those with criminal records.