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DNA Retention

Aim of this page

This page provides information on the collection, retention and destruction of fingerprints and DNA.

We have separate information on the retention and deletion of police cautions and convictions.

Why is this important?

Even though cautions and convictions remain on the Police National Computer (PNC) until you are 100 years old, there are some situations where the police will destroy your biometric information (DNA and fingerprints). It’s important to know whether this will apply to you and how you go about making a request to the police.

Biometric information

Biometric information refers to fingerprints and DNA Profiles.

If you are arrested, your details will be entered onto the Police National Computer (PNC). This will include your personal details, details of your arrest and biometric information such as fingerprints and your DNA profile.

Your biometric information will be either retained or destroyed depending on whether you have been convicted or not. The table below provides further information.

Retention period for individuals convicted of an offence


Retention period for individuals not convicted for an offence



A minor offence is defined as any recordable offence that is not a covered under the definition of a qualifying offence.

A qualifying offence is one that is more serious; a full list of qualifying offences has been set out in Section 65A of PACE which can be found here. According to ACPO there are over 400 qualifying offences.

Effect on people with convictions

The only time that fingerprint and DNA information would be destroyed is for individuals convicted of a minor offence under 18 at the time of conviction, so long as the offence wasn’t for a qualifying offence.

However, it’s important to realise that this only relates to fingerprint and DNA information – the actual conviction will remain on the PNC.

Effect on people charged

If you are charged with a qualifying offence but not convicted you can apply for early deletion of your biometric information only if you have no previous convictions. If you are arrested and charged with a qualifying offence but not convicted, your biometric information can be retained for three years.

For more information and details regarding the deletion of biometric information please click here.

Sample Collection

The collection of intimate and non-intimate samples are regulated and outlined in Section 62 and 65 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

An officer may only give authorisation if he has reasonable grounds for believing that a sample will confirm or disprove the person’s involvement.

Non-Intimate Samples

A non-intimate sample is hair (that is not pubic hair); a sample taken from the nail or under nail; a swab taken from any part of the body, including a mouth swab, but not from any other body orifice; saliva and a footprint.

A non-intimate sample may be taken without consent.

Intimate Samples

An intimate sample is defined as: blood, semen, any other tissue or fluid, urine, pubic hair, dental impression or swab taken from any orifice other than the mouth.

An intimate sample may be taken from any person in police detention. An intimate sample can be taken from someone who is not in police detention but who, during an investigation, has supplied two or more non-intimate samples that have proved insufficient.

More information about whether your biometric data is likely to be on a police database can be found here

Operation Nutmeg

The following information regards the collection of DNA samples as part of Operation Nutmeg whereby police forces in England and Wales have been collecting DNA samples from 12,000 serious offenders who are not on the national DNA database.

Police forces in England and Wales have been pushing ahead with collecting DNA of people with convictions pre-dating 1994.  Routine DNA collection was not implemented until after this.

July 2013

In 2013, a legal challenge was made by a person with convictions against their police force’s request to provide a non-intimate DNA sample as he argued that the request infringed on his human rights.

The judgement decided that the request was both ‘lawful and proportionate’. There are a number of helpful aspects from the judgement:

  • The police must strike a balance in each case to decide whether taking a DNA sample is proportionate.
  • It may be that in some cases the police have required an attendance at the police station before issuing an authorisation to take DNA – this would be unlawful.
  • The court suggested that a person should have a chance to make representations as to why it would not be proportionate to take DNA in a particular case.

As outlined in Section 62 of PACE, an officer may authorise collection if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the sample will confirm or disprove the individual’s involvement. However in this case, the grounds for DNA collection were ‘purely speculative’ but the court ruled that this was acceptable.

For full details on this particular case, please see the article from The Independent

For additional information on this case, please read the High Court Decision

October 2013

In another case, a 74 year old was required to attend the police station to provide a sample of DNA for a crime he committed 42 year earlier. This was challenged and on review of the case, the police force decided that it was not in the public interest or proportionate to pursue this DNA sample.

Guidelines relating to Operation Nutmeg now state:

“The purpose of this operation is to ensure that those convicted of Homicides and/or Sexual Offences have a confirmed DNA profile held on the National DNA Database and is correctly shown on their PNC record. To achieve this, forces will be supplied with details of subjects whose last known location is within their Force area. Each subject will need a risk assessment carried out to identify the high risk nominal’s and ensure that they are located and sampled at the earliest opportunity”

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on retention and deletion of police cautions and convictions
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in July 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to

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Debbie Sadler
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