Police forces have been left powerless to hold DNA samples taken from people arrested on suspicion of sex crimes due to changes to the law, Labour has warned.
The changes to the national DNA database come in the 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act, under which DNA profiles from people arrested but not charged with a serious offence should be destroyed.
Detectives will be able to apply to the recently-appointed Biometrics Commissioner to retain DNA in exceptional circumstances, such as when the victim is under the age of 18, but this power does not come into force until October.
Now forces must destroy the DNA held for anyone arrested on suspicion of sex offences but against whom no further action was taken.
Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, and Labour’s shadow home secretary, said police were “powerless” to retain the evidence of more 4,000 people arrested on suspicion of rape every year, with 18,000 such profiles destroyed already.
She said: “The Home Office should be providing the tools the police need to fight crime and catch criminals, yet instead the Home Secretary has badly botched the implementation of a policy that was foolhardy in the first place. Even the Government has admitted that there will be cases where a prosecution fails for other reasons but there are strong public safety reasons for retaining the DNA evidence on file.”
The new legislation is not yet in force as first DNA and fingerprints held which were taken from innocent individuals in the past must be destroyed.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are restoring common sense to the system by ensuring only those convicted of a criminal offence will have their DNA retained indefinitely.”