The introduction of DNA analysis to forensic science brought with it a number of choices for analysis, not all of which were compatible. As laboratories throughout Europe were eager to use the new technology different systems became routine in different laboratories and consequently, there was no basis for the exchange of results. A period of co-operation then started in which a nucleus of forensic scientists agreed on an uniform system. This collaboration spread to incorporate most of the established forensic science laboratories in Europe and continued through two major changes in the technology. At each step agreement was reached on which systems to use. From the beginning it was realised that DNA databases would provide the criminal justice systems with an efficient way of crime solving and consequently some local databases were created. It was not until the introduction of the amplification technology linked to the analysis of short tandem repeats that a sufficiently sensitive and robust system was available for the formation of efficient and effective DNA databases. Comprehensive legislation enacted in the UK in 1995 enabled forensic scientists to set up the first national DNA database which would hold both personal DNA profiles together with results obtained from crime scenes. Other countries quickly followed but in some the legislation has severely restricted the amount and type of data which can be retained and, therefore, effectiveness of the databases is limited. The widespread use of commercially produced multiplex kits has produced a situation in which nearly all European laboratories are using compatible systems and there is, therefore, the potential for the introduction of a pannEuropean DNA database. However, the exchange of results between countries is hampered by the various legislations which currently exist. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.