POLICE have refused to reveal how many people in Essex have asked to have their DNA removed from the national database.

A request made by the Gazette, under the Freedom of Information Act, was turned down because it would either cost too much or take up too many resources to answer.

People arrested, whose DNA swabs have been kept by police for the database, can only get them removed by asking the Chief Constable in writing. It is then up to the Chief Constable to decide whether there are “exceptional circumstances” which would allow police to dispose of the samples.

Among the hundreds of thousands of people on the national database, are those who have never been convicted of any crime. We asked Essex Police how many people had ever written to the county’s Chief Constable, now Jim Barker-McCardle, requesting their DNA be removed from the database.

We also asked, of those, how many had been successful in getting their DNA removed from the database.

But in a response, Steve Grayton, an information officer in the force’s freedom of information team, declined to provide the figures.

He said public bodies, such as the police, are allowed to refuse Freedom of Information Act requests if it meant answering the question would cost more than £450 or take over 18 hours.

One innocent man who has been trying to get his DNA removed from the database is Paul Morson. The 33-year-old was arrested on suspicion of burglary, in August, but was released without charge after a night in a police station in which a DNA swab was taken from his mouth.

Mr Morson, of Westcliff, has enlisted the help of a solicitor who has now requested the destruction of the sample.

He said: “Essex Police not telling the Gazette is indicative of the whole situation. I believe if a person has been proven innocent or committed no crime, keeping their records on the database is an infringement of their civil liberties.”

Police say keeping DNA samples, even of innocent people, has helped them solve thousands of crimes, including murders and rapes.