Relaxing DNA rules could reduce rape convictions, Labour warns

Nicholas Watt writes in the Guardian:

The government is running the risk of making it more difficult to convict rapists by relaxing the rules for retaining the DNA of suspects, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has warned.

Parliament is due to debate the government’s protection of freedoms bill on Tuesday, which includes plans to limit the retention of DNA to three years in England and Wales. Labour, which says DNA should be retained for six years, says the government’s plan would lead to 1,500 fewer detections per year.

Cooper is alarmed that DNA will be retained only in “limited circumstances” if someone is arrested but not charged with rape. Labour said this was a “huge missed opportunity” because studies have shown that the reoffending rate for rape is as high as 29%.

The shadow home secretary said: “The government is going too far in restricting the use of DNA from suspects who have been arrested. Rape cases could be particularly affected. There are already far too few rape convictions, but this change will make it even harder – 69% of rape cases involve arrests but never make it to trial.