Letter from Her Majesty's Courts Service - paternity testing

This was in response to a request (below) under the Freedom of Information Act.

Civil and Family Directorate
Civil and Family Justice Division
4th Floor Selbourne House
54 Victoria Street

Barry Pearson
(address removed)

4 August 2005

Dear Mr Pearson


Thank you for your letter of 14 July 2005, requesting details of the number of paternity tests performed each year and the percentage which proved paternity since the DCA's paternity testing system began. I assume that by this you mean the number of paternity tests ordered by courts since the implementation of the Family Law Reform Act 1969, which introduced provisions for the use of scientific tests for determining paternity.

I have checked the position and unfortunately this Department does not keep a central record of DNA tests ordered by the courts and no data regarding the total number of tests ordered by the courts or of their results is collected centrally by DCA. It would only be possible to provide details by searching court files to discover where orders for paternity tests have been made during the course of proceedings.

Consequently we estimate that the costs of complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit for central government is set at £600, which represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3 1/2 working days in determining whether the department holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting the information. Consequently by virtue of section 12(1) the Department is not obliged to comply with your request.

Records of DNA tests would be held by the courts on the individual case files. You should note that there is no right of access under the Freedom of Information ACT to information contained in court records (by virtue of section 32(1) of the FOI Act). The only way of accessing copies of such orders would be for you to go to the individual courts in question and ask them to provide copies, which would need to have any personal data relating to individuals removed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. It will be at the court’s discretion whether to provide you with the information.

If you are unhappy with the way the Department has handled your request, you may ask for an internal review. Requests for internal review should be addressed to: Access Rights Unit, Department for Constitutional Affairs, 1st floor, Clive House, 70 Petty France, London SW 1H 9HD

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: (address removed for conciseness).

If you have any queries about your request please contact me.

Yours sincerely

Relationship Breakdown Branch
Family Justice Division

My original request for information

(my address removed)

14th July 2005

Dear Sir

Please supply the following information, according to the Freedom Of Information Act.

Please tell me the number of DNA paternity tests performed each year, within the scope of the DCA, since the DCA's (and its predecessor's) paternity testing system began. And, for each year, the number of these tests, or the percentage of them, that proved paternity.

Since I am making a separate request to the Child Support Agency, I am not asking here for paternity testing specifically arranged and administered by the CSA.

It is acceptable to supply the numbers for 12-month periods other than calendar years, for example according to the DCA's annual reporting cycle. If so, please identify the cycle. And it is acceptable to supply the number, or the percentage, which disproved rather than proved paternity.

Please indicate whether these figures apply just to England and Wales, or to Great Britain, or whether they include Northern Ireland too.

(For your information, this is part of a survey of "official" use of DNA paternity testing in the UK. Other requests include the Immigration and Nationality Directorate).

Thank you.

Yours faithfully

Barry Pearson

Page last updated: 18 August, 2005 © Copyright HMCS and Barry Pearson 2005