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Italy approves DNA database to fight crime

by Giovanni Negri

The Cabinet yesterday approved the final rules for the creation of a DNA database to combat crime that should also be helpful in the fight against terrorism.

At the end of the Cabinet meeting Justice Minister Andrea Orlando stressed that “at a sensitive time like this, I think it is fair to say that this is a key step to increase the safety level of the country. The database will allow us not only to facilitate investigations, but also to deal with cases that, in light of the available instruments, are currently considered unsolved. In the coming days the lab for data collection will be opened.”

For Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, the database “is an instrument of formidable power from the IT point of view. We took a step forward that has few precedents in Europe and that will allow the storage of scientific and DNA data which will be very important in the fight against terrorism and in the fight against organized crime and illegal immigration.”

A single national archive can be created -- surpassing the current fragmentation of the existing databases -- by, first of all, collecting samples from 4 categories of subjects:

• those arrested in flagrante delicto or suspected of crime;
• inmates sentenced for premeditated crime;
• those that opted for alternative imprisonment measures but were sentenced for premeditated crimes;
• whoever is subject -- either temporarily or definitively -- to custodial security measures.

It should be noted that there are certain exemptions. For example, data samples cannot be taken for the most common “white collar” crimes, including tax and corporate crimes.

Furthermore, profiles will be deleted from the database in case of full acquittal or when the identity of a previously unidentified corpse if established. The regulation approved yesterday also defines the period of time during which data will be preserved: 30 years from the last entry or 40 years if the subject is a repeat offender.

The ability to check the database will especially facilitate the identification of missing persons through the acquisition of the missing person's data so as to create a DNA profile and consequently make comparisons.

It will be located at the Interior Ministry's Department of Public Security, while the Central Laboratory will be at the Department of Penitentiary Administration at the Ministry of Justice.

The database is available to national investigators. But the regulation includes provisions for consultation for international cooperation purposes and regulates the exchange of information and the protection of the personal data that is either transmitted or received by requiring investigators to specify the purpose of their use of the data and providing for regular controls on the quality of the data and the lawfulness of their usage.