Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said:
“This is shocking incompetence by the Home Office and shows Theresa May has failed to keep a grip on this crucial policy.
“It is appalling that DNA evidence from thousands of rape suspects is now being destroyed contrary to the promises made by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary.
“They were warned repeatedly in Parliament and by the police about the risks involved in destroying DNA evidence in this way. Theresa May's failure to prevent and deal with this incompetence shows she has not taken seriously enough the risks to rape convictions and crime from her policy.
“The Home Office should be providing the tools the police need to fight crime and catch criminals, yet instead the Home Secretary has badly the botched the implementation of a policy that was foolhardy in the first place.
“We know that rape is a particularly difficult crime to get convictions. 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 Prime Minister assured Parliament that if someone was arrested but not charged with rape, the police would be able to ask to retain the DNA of the suspect. Yet because of Theresa May’s incompetence the police are powerless to retain it.
“For a crime like rape that means over 4,000 suspects a year where the police will be powerless to retain the evidence even if there are extremely good grounds. That’s on top of the extra 18,000 rape suspects already removed from the DNA database.
“This incompetence means the Prime Minister may have inadvertently misled Parliament when he previously guaranteed the police would have this power.
“The Home Secretary should instigate an immediate inquiry by a senior ACPO representative into how this implementation went so badly wrong, and rectify it urgently. We need to know if the police have been ignored or over ruled by the Home Office and why this has gone so wrong."