LONDON: Fingerprint and DNA profiles of over 800 terror suspects have been destroyed due to errors committed by Britain’s intelligence and police services, prompting authorities to launch a probe Friday.
The number of destroyed cases represents approximately one in 10 of the 8,000 extremists whose details are held on the UK government’s counter-terrorism database.
UK Biometrics Commissioner MacGregor blamed the destruction of the evidence on “repeated delays” in transferring DNA material by police, and “substantial delays” by the Security Service in providing assessments of suspects.
Keith Vaz, Britain’s longest-serving Indian-origin MP and chair of the Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee said, “Hundreds of DNA profiles have been lost which can link suspects to criminal activity, which in many of these cases may be terrorism-related”.
“There needs to be an urgent investigation to get to the root of this problem, but the Home Office must get a grip of how data is being managed to prevent issues like this from damaging our national security,” Vaz said.
In a report released by the UK Home Office this week, MacGregor found the fingerprints and DNA profiles of 810 suspects – the “great majority” of whom had been swabbed as part of a terrorism investigation – had been destroyed.
He said 108 of the suspects were so dangerous that the Security Service had provided evidence supporting the need to keep hold of the database.
“It is obviously very important that steps quickly be taken to establish whether – and, if so, how – replacement material should be obtained from those individuals and/or other action should be taken to minimise any risk which they pose to national se-curity,” MacGregor said.
A Home Office spokesperson said, “The commissioner has concluded that steps are being taken to address these issues, and the police have provided further assurances that they will be kept under close review. The government’s full response to the commissioner’s annual report will be published in due course”.