Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the scientist who pioneered the use of genetic fingerprinting and profiling, has expressed fundamental doubts about the government's handling of the DNA database.
Anyone arrested in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has a DNA sample taken which is currently stored for 12 years regardless of whether the person is convicted of a crime or not.
Despite the government's latest plans to cut this time to six years, the UK remains in a "unique position in the world", Professor Jeffreys told a House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on the database yesterday.
"If we roll the clock back to 25 years go, and if there was the suggestion then that I'd be sitting here today debating why it is that we have roughly a million UK citizens, entirely innocent, residing on a database, I'd be frankly astonished, perplexed and deeply worried. And I still am deeply worried," he said.
"If my DNA was put on a database I would object profoundly to that. I would argue that DNA is fundamentally different [to traditional fingerprints]. It is a highly intimate sample."
Professor Jeffreys warned that the DNA of an innocent citizen could be falsely matched with that at a crime scene owing to a "glitch in the database", or could lead to the inculpation of a close family member.
The DNA expert added that as information begins to be shared across European DNA databases, the "more likely it is of an exceedingly rare match coming up".
Professor Jeffreys said he would be "very content" if England, Wales and Northern Ireland followed the lead of Scotland's law enforcers in retaining records only in the case of serious crimes, and in those instances "for limited period followed by judicial review".