Saturday, February 23, 2008

Who Should be on The DNA Register?

Balancing the responsibilities of the State against the rights of the individual is one ofthe most difficult things for politicians to get right. The tendency is to be all in favour of civil liberties while in opposition but to revert to authoritarian type when in government. That's certainly happened with this Labour government. And in times of threats to national security, politicians need to be quite courageous to resist all the demands to impose authoritarian measures on the populace.

The argument surrounding DNA evidence is a perfect example of the dilemmas faced. At the moment only someone interviewed by Police has their DNA taken. If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted. Some argue that if the government had everyone's DNA on record it would make the Police's life far easier and crimes would be solved much more quickly. It's a similar argument to ID cards.

This week European judges will consider the case of two people who were charged with a crime but never convicted who want their DNA wiped off the national database. This case has far reaching implications and could lead to more than 500,000 other people's DNA being wiped.

This is a really difficult one for people like me who believe that the rights of the individual must be protected from the pervasive influence of the State. In theory I would support the right of the innocent individual to have their records wiped if they had been found not guilty of a crime, or not even charged. However, the real world does not operate in this way. The individual also has the right to be protected from harm by others, and it is the role of the State to introduce laws which enable that to happen.

As I understand it the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives believe that only those convicted of a crime should be on the DNA database. It's a consistent position and easy to argue. The fact that 100,000 innocent children are on it and should never have been, 26,000 police-collected samples have been left off it and half a million entries have been misrecorded lend weight to the view that the government is incapable of managing such sensitive data.

And yet, and yet. What worries me is that sex attackers and murderers are more difficult to find without full access to DNA records. So I wonder if a messy compromise isn't something we should be considering. My only exceptions to the "No DNA record unless charged" rule would be for people interviewed on suspicion of rape or murder. I accept that it would mean some innocent people being added to the DNA register, but it would undoubtedly reduce the time it takes the Police to solve these two heinous crimes, and therefore prevent others from taking place. Of course one can take this further and use the same argument in favour of everyone having their DNA taken, as it would then lead to other crimes being solved more quickly. I realise that. But I'm afraid that murder and rape are crimes which merit a different and stronger approach.

UPDATE: Martin corrects me in the comments: "Actually Iain you're wrong to say:"If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted."People who are arrested but not charged remain on the DNA database."Before 2001, the police could take DNA samples during investigations but had to destroy the samples and the records derived from them on the Database if the people concerned were acquitted or charges were not proceeded with.The law was changed in 2001 to remove this requirement, and changed again in 2004 so that DNA samples could be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station."http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/using-science/dna-database/So the dataabse is already being populated with the DNA of people who have never been charged just in case they later go on to commit a crime. Either they should be removed or everyone should be added.

56 comments:

The Heresiarch said...

The point to remember is that there are actually rather few high-profile crimes that can only be solved with DNA. The same police now calling for everyone to be included on the database managed to get there men under the existing arrangements. A bigger database will mean more delays, more "false-positives" (which are a real problem, especially with tiny samples), more opportunities for incompetence or even fraud. It will reverse the burden of proof. It also contributes to the growing atmosphere of mistrust, the idea that you have to be authenticated by the state or else you're a criminal.

The price of a few criminals being harder to detect is a price worth paying for a free society, I think. Security and liberty are not always compatible: you certainly can't have 100% of both. I choose liberty.

haddock said...

At present a jury is not informed of previous convictions, if they are told that DNA evidence led to their arrest there is a pretty large hint to the jury that the defendant has 'form'. How does the government square this objection ?

Gasman said...

I disagree entirely with the thrust of your arguement, but even within it why on earth should people interviewed but not charged with rape or murder have their DNA kept, but not people interviewed about, say, kidnapping? Or burglary? Or dropping litter?
If you're interviewed about, but innocent of, a serious crime, are you somehow guilty of something? Is being in the wrong place atthe wrong time a crime now?

lettersfromatory said...

It's a very fine balance, and there will be a whole spectrum of opinion on how it should work.

I think your idea might work, but DNA of those arrested but not charged should be wiped after a certain amount of time because the Government has no right to keep it - even if it was a serious offence that they were accused of.

Martin said...

Actually Iain you're wrong to say:

"If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted."

People who are arrested but not charged remain on the DNA database.

"Before 2001, the police could take DNA samples during investigations but had to destroy the samples and the records derived from them on the Database if the people concerned were acquitted or charges were not proceeded with.

The law was changed in 2001 to remove this requirement, and changed again in 2004 so that DNA samples could be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station."

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/using-science/dna-database/

So the dataabse is already being populated with the DNA of people who have never been charged just in case they later go on to commit a crime.

Either they should be removed or everyone should be added.

AnyoneButBrown said...

What is proposed:
A state that legally enforces everyone to hold a biometric ID card (at pain of large fines and a custodial sentence) and held every citizens DNA for checking against criminal records. A state that routinely monitors all you financial transactions, your telephone, your mobile telephone, your internet access and your email.
Another name for this is a police state. Representative democracy I don't think so....
Another decade of glorious law enforcement under New Labour

killemallletgodsortemout said...

Only murder and rape suspects?
What about those accused of sexual offences against children? Surely those types of offences are just as "heinous" as murder and rape?

I'm all for having my DNA taken and kept, so long as that of every illegal immigrant, foreign visitor, judge, member of the Lords and "honourable" member of parliament is taken first.

Gallimaufry said...

I remember when Bill Clinton came to Birmingham for the G8 in 1998. He had a pint in the Malt House by the canal near Brindley Place (recommended if you're ever in B'ham). Anyway, his glass was smashed by secret service minders allegedly to prevent dna samples being taken (if not, why not auction it for charity?). My point is that if everybody's dna is on record then every glass, can, cigarette butt you leave is like a credit card or utility bill to potential id thieves. Why shouldn't criminals plant false evidence? dna evidence is a useful tool when used knowledgeably by the Police investigating a crime but it is not, despite media hype, a foolproof eye on the crime.
If people assume that dna will catch the criminal every time they will become less observant, nosey even and society will lose even more cohesion. Human intelligence provided to a beat Constable, properly analysed and recorded, is a proactive but unglamorous use of resources. "Dodgy" types could be identified, monitored and hopefully helped or banged up earlier in their crime careers. The Police's primary task is to deter crime as Sir Robert Peel so wisely stated.

strapworld said...

As the country is now broke. It just cannot afford a DNA database of all its citizens.

However I do believe that all those that have their dna taken for whatever purpose should have their records kept on the data base.

Then all children.This will mean that eventually the database would have all the records.

In addition every immigrant into this country must have their dna contained within the data base.

Not visitors. Those visitors that overstay would then come into my first consideration!

Then voluntary donations. I am sure I am not alone in wanting my DNA to be registered. I have nothing to fear. My fingerprints have been on record for years!Our medical records are kept since birth, as are our dental records- if you change dentists they give an examination and thus a new record is kept!!

So I believe, if handled in an adult manner and without any lurid headlines, that the vast majority of folk would offer their DNA for the database.

Why is this red herring of big brother and civil liberties always brought out.

The fact is, as the detective said yesterday. IF we had an effective DNA database that scum dixie would have been identified within hours!

How many more children, women and men are going to be murdered or sexually attacked before the wimps wake up?

Calais said...

The first and over-riding step is to dna all politicians, police and the quango'ites.

When we have imprisoned all the criminals hiding within, THEN we can have a sensible discussion about who else, if anybody, should be on this national database.

I note that when the concept of routinely dna'ing the police was put to the Police Federation some years ago they rejected it out of hand.

If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear - isn't that right?

Anonymous said...

Iain, As someone who is on the database; arrested but never charged. To be honest it doesn't bother me. But my only problem is couldit not be possible for DNA records to be held not by the police but by say another agency. Then if the police need to check DNA they would need to apply to. I know it might sound daft but surely it would be a check-and-balance?
Also this is building a database by the backdoor anyway, as it my parents or children decide to commit a crime they can be found using the similarities to my DNA.

fh said...

The problem with exceptions is the choosing. Rape is heinous. But what about kidnapping? Any form of child molestation? Etc etc.

The point being, if a case can be made for suspending the legal rights for one kind of ex-accused, there will be advocates for the suspension with respect to others, fueled by heinous circumstances.

cirrus said...

If everyone was on the DNA database then its inevitable that the Government will hold inaccurate data on some individuals but that's not a problem because the DNA test is repeatable. If you are falsely accused then demand a repeat of the test to prove that the database contained errors and clear your name. Simple. I can't understand what reasonable liberties I am giving up.

commenter said...

Iain, I think your messy compromise will be regarded as the thin end of the wedge by the shrill privacy Walter Mittys.
A few raped women or murder victims weigh nothing next to their fantasy of being Jason Bourne, on the run from the evil shadowy forces of the security state.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine the Govt (a) organising the dna testing of the whole country, even assuming they could ever work out who's actually here and (b) looking after the dna properly?

Forget this now. It's not a magic fix, it's a distratction from the real issues arising from policing practices.

Joseph K said...

Iain I think your point is well argued, but how would you square this: at 17 I was arrested and subsequently charged for the rape of an ex-girlfriend of two years. Six months later I was fully acquitted of a crime that I had not committed and abhor, yet am now marked for life in the DNA database as a potential criminal.

How can this possibly be fair?

Would not a better solution be to remove those accused of rape and murder from the DNA database after a period of say 25 years if they did not come to police attention again?

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

killemallletgodsortemout [10.38] and calais [10.43]

I entirely agree. If the Police Federation and ACPO will agree to have every serving and retired police officer DNA'd and if Parliament will agree to have every serving and retired MP, and every peer, DNA'd, then I would be prepared to look at this again. If not, let's hear the objections. If they won't wear it (for whatever reason) neither will I.

FFS, even my local authority now has power to tap my telephone, in case I am plotting to put rubbish in the wrong dustbin.

jack straw said...

That's wonderful, Iain, just wonderful. Your new party membership card is in the post.

Anoneumouse said...

The DNA of every potential politician should be put on the database and before they stand for election it should be analysed to discover if they have a propensity to...Lie, steel, commit fraud, give honours for cash or bugger some youngster on wimbledon common. They have nothing to hide!

Anonymous said...

You say "the real world does not operate in this way".
We now know through recent events how the real world does operate. It loses confidential data; it allows unauthorised access; the data are meat and drink to an army of snoopers who have the time and money to use the data against us. They will, if they don't already, input the data and calculate the chance that anyone of us is a criminal or terrorist.
The bottom line is this; the State's incompetent behaviour has, together with the absence of democratic oversight and transparency, forfeited our trust.
The State must not be trusted with such data.

Daily Referendum said...

1. There are 619,672 individuals on the DNA database that do not exist.

2. 105,000 children convicted of no crime have been added to the database.

3. Around 80,000 innocent children are likely to be added to the database every 12 months.

4. EU states have agreed to incorporate into EU Law, a system which will allow its members to view DNA, fingerprint and car registration data of criminal suspects. There is one glaring problem with this system: There are over one million British citizens on that DNA database who have never been convicted of any crime.

5. the police follow retention guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which state that records will normally be retained for 100 years from the person’s date of birth, regardless of whether they are still alive. Guilty or not.

Madasafish said...

Making a DNA databaase of all citizens is going to cost £billions to set up and £millions to run: updating addresses, names etc.

The question is : will the money be well spent or can we spend money better?

(all the rest is bullshit).

Then look at what money we do spend now. Is it spent wisely?
Eg on immigration, do we repatriate failed asylum seekers, foreign criminals quickly?
Do our police clear up known crimes?
Do our courts jail lots of rapists?

Cos if the above don't work, a DNA database will help- but only a little.

Given Government's clear inability to manage effectively the resources it has from our taxes... then any suggestion of further spending before the current mess is sorted.. is a waste of money.

I see no reason for further Gov't expenditure until it shows it can amange what it does spend more effectively.

Wehn that's done, we can debate, civil rights of DNA databases etc.

strapworld said...

calais - you sad man.

There are a few bad apples in the police and amongst our politicians. That is why when they are discovered it is generally front page news. It is by definition RARE! so your first observation is, frankly, stupid.

I cannot understand the Police Federation being against the routine logging of the police after all all police have to have their fingerprints etc on file when they join up!

Daily Referendum said...

Missed one:

From the Daily Mail.

6. Those who have had their DNA taken include two schoolgirls charged with criminal damage after drawing chalk on a pavement and a child in Kent who removed a slice of cucumber from a tuna mayonnaise sandwich and threw it at another youngster.

Raedwald said...

Let's look at murder and serious sexual assault (SSA) to start with. You start with the premise that a universal DNA database would help in speedily identifying the perpetrator. However, few murders are 'stranger killings'; almost 4/5ths of female murder victims and over 1/2 of male murder victims knew their killer. The murder figures for the UK also include infanticide (where the killer is almost always the mother) and such deaths as those of 58 Chinese immigrants who suffocated in a lorry and 52 victims of the 7/7 bombers.

As far as SSAs go, most are committed on women by men who are known to them; 'stranger rape' is very much rarer than the tabloids would have us believe.

There are therefore astonishingly few murders or SSAs for which suspects cannot be identified by means of conventional policework.

ACPO know this, of course. So why, you may ask, are they advocating the sledgehammer of a gross violation of personal freedom to crack the nut of a very few serious 'stranger' crimes? Now bear with me, for it gets more curious yet.

A 2002 Home Office study,'Murder and Serious Sexual Assault: What criminal histories can reveal about future serious offending' tells us that 68% of first-time murderers and 64% of serious sexual offenders already have previous convictions. Of those without previous convictions, many were killers of family members rather than strangers, and detectable by conventional means. Those with previous convictions will already have had their DNA taken.

In other words, there is a very high probability that the perpetrator of a 'stranger' crime will already be on the DNA database - and in the cases of both Steve Wright and Mark Dixie, the police already had their DNA on file for earlier offences.

So there is NO real justification for a universal DNA database; it wouldn't increase detection rates for murder or SSA by any significant amount at all.

Again, ACPO must know this - so why are they advocating something they don't actually need?

This suggestion must be strongly resisted - it's not warranted on grounds of solving crime, and it opens a potential Pandora's Box of illiberality and persecution.

In future whole police squads won't need to stake out some lonely cottage to catch George Michael having a J Arthur - they could just pop in once a day to collect the DNA samples, match them on the computer and post out the summonses. That's not the sort of world I want to live in.

Head of Legal said...

I can never understand why people fail to think about the practical aspect of collecting DNA. The compromise we have is obviously at least partly based on collecting DNA from a wide range of people who come to police stations. Among those people, the choice has obviously been made that it's politically acceptable to bring suspects in as part of an automatic process, but not witnesses or victims. Taking DNA at the point of arrest is simple, and checking against any later charge or conviction would obviously introduce a big admin cost.

The current policy seems to me to make it practically and administratively easy for the police to collect DNA. I can't imagine any government wanting to take the much more labour and resource intensive step of requiring the police to go out actively collecting from people who don't as it were come to them.

Aardvark said...

Here is an extract from the Home Office website which demonstrates the usefulness of retaining all the DNA data currently held:

"Any intrusion on personal privacy is proportionate to the benefits that are gained.

By the end of 2005, about 200,000 samples had been retained that would have been destroyed before the 2001 change in legislation. 8,000 of these samples matched with DNA taken from crime scenes, involving nearly 14,000 offences, including murders and rapes."

dougal said...

I agree with all the anti-DNA database comments, and would like to add the following:

If the police are arguing for such a database on the grounds that it would make detection easier, why not fit the whole population with microchips that would allow the authorities to monitor our every movement? Wouldn't that make the police's job even easier?

And please have patience with me here: the other day, a shopkeeper, who had been viciously attacked with a knife by a violent criminal on the run from bail, was arrested for murder because during the shopkeeper's fight to defend himself, the assailant's knife ended up in his own body.

Perhaps if instead of wasting everyone's time on such a ridiculous charge, the police had been doing a better job keeping tabs on the criminal, the death might not have occurred and the true victim might not now have months of anguish ahead.

My point is that the police should not be encouraging such draconian measures as DNA databasing, but should be applying more commonsense and diligence to current crimes.

And before any coppers come on here to protest, yes I read Inspector Gadget, and I know the problems the ordinary policemen and women face in trying to do their jobs.

check your facts first, motorgob said...

Raedwald: "...in the cases of both Steve Wright and Mark Dixie, the police already had their DNA on file for earlier offences"

Wrong. In the case of Dixie his DNA was obtained nine months after the murder of Sally Anne, when Dixie was arrested for a pub fight over a football match, of all things.

In the meantime he was free to commit other crimes and, of course remove himself from the UK, and thus away from the risk of having his DNA collected. He did in fact move to Amsterdam for several months. If he'd stayed out of Britain he might never have been caught.

strapworld said...

dougal said....

I read the newspapers reports on the Shopkeeper and the violent thug who was killed in the struggle that presumably took place.

But.dougal, we do not know the full circumstances. I agree with you on the face of it it is not right. But everyone jumped on the side of that man who shot the burglar - up North- and was imprisoned. You may remember the argument a mans home is his castle and we should be able to protect ourselves.

Now that burglar was shot in the back running away!

Was this criminal stabbed in the back? we do not know the facts. Our sympathy's will be with the shopkeeper BUT until the full facts are known we should keep our counsel.

Your last statement is ridiculous.

"the police had been doing a better job keeping tabs on the criminal, the death might not have occurred and the true victim might not now have months of anguish ahead".

with the number of people with criminal pasts out here in the real world. Can you tell me how one keeps tabs on them all?

Gottschalk said...

So the Iain Dale who needed a lie-down when he heard about the smoking licenses idea is take-it-or-leave-it about a national DNA database?

Talk about straining at gnats and swallowing camels...

Madasafish said...

" Can you tell me how one keeps tabs on them all?"

Easy: 3 convictions and jail for 20 years.
Oops jails are full.

Better spend money on new jails than on DNA database...

hey but who expects logic...?

curly15 said...

Perhaps from now on we should record the DNA of all newborn babies, scrap the police forces, and just run a small team of scientists with a reliable database! Think of the money that could be saved.

Let's just assume that we are all going to end up breaking some law or other anyway and let the geeks find us out!

Isn't there something rather nostalgic about good old coppering and detective work? Wouldn't it be nice if communities could pull together and remember that a policeman is supposed to be your friend? Thirty years ago the people of Croxteth would have turned Rhys's killer in within a couple of days!

Anonymous said...

If I was arrested, had DNA taken and was released without charge, a whole stack of people would not hear the end of it until my DNA was removed from the database.

The possibilities for error and insecurity in a large scale DNA database coupled with the possibility of abuse of the information at some point in my life or the lives of my children mean there is no way I would willingly let the state have my DNA on a database...

Raedwald said...

Motorgob -

The fact is that both men had their DNA recorded for unconnected offences, and that it's the high degree of correlation between those processed for 'minor' offences and those who commit murder and SSA that makes it largely unnecessary from the point of identifying perpetrators of serious crime to record the general population.

And playing 'what if' games is just silly; what if Peter Sutcliffe had turned into the tooth fairy and gone to live in Brazil.

The fact is that the current system of recording DNA works very well in detecting those who go on to commit serious 'stranger' crimes. There's no need to compromise the freedoms of the law abiding population.

troymolloy said...

The situation with adding records to the database even for those who are not charged is lamentable, and reduces trust in the authorities as far as I'm concerned. It is certainly a reason why I would never be prepared to help the Police with their inquiries in say a rape case where they are looking to rule out males of a certain age (assuming that is an investigative tactic they draw on from time to time).

Anonymous said...

You make a couple of unsubstantiated assumptions when you say:

"My only exceptions to the "No DNA record unless charged" rule would be for people interviewed on suspicion of rape or murder. I accept that it would mean some innocent people being added to the DNA register, but it would undoubtedly reduce the time it takes the Police to solve these two heinous crimes, and therefore prevent others from taking place."

Why would it "undoubtedly" reduce the time? That assumes that those who commit murders or rapes will have been arrested by the police before but not charged with any offence. What evidence do you have that this is often true? Secondly, what evidence is there that reducing the time to solve rapes and murders often prevents others from taking place? One of the main characteristics of what the Labour party has done while in government is the desire to be seen to do something that the man on the Clapham omnibus (of whatever the modern equivalent is) thinks will solve a problem. It is easy to abandon principles and human rights on this basis, as we have seen. We are constantly asked to sacrifice more freedom for the sake of security, which gives us neither. We've had enough of it with the Labour party and it's sad that Conservatives seem really no different.

Julian Gall

wonderfulforhisage said...

Iain, you write:

"The individual also has the right to be protected from harm by others, and it is the role of the State to introduce laws which enable that to happen."

Yes Nanny, and let's castrate all sex offenders, better still, all males under 65. That should do the trick.

Some might argue that this is going a bit far, but, if it saves one life.........

I suppose as we grow closer and closer to Europe we will have to get used to the Continental system of everything being illegal unless the law specifically allows it. A comprehensive DNA database would fit well within this system.

Or, we could believe in the inherent decency of our fellow men until it's proved otherwise, deem everything legal unless specifically legislated against and appoint Chief Constables that realise that they are servants of the public and not politicians.

In some ways it is good that my parents have not lived to experience the squandering of the freedoms that that their generation fought to defend.

Here's to the rise of a Libertarian movement, and the demise of NuLab and the Useless Tories.

Votedave said...

Who should be on the DNA database?
People with a criminal record.

calais said...

Strapworld@1041 said...
"I am sure I am not alone in wanting my DNA to be registered. I have nothing to fear."

Nothing to fear eh?

Perhaps ignorance will be your armour. Science however will not. Maybe some words from Professor Allan Jamieson, director of the Forensic Institute in Glasgow may disabuse you.

Alternatively, when you (and seemingly many others) who appear to assume dna processing is without error and only produces a suspect list of one, wake up at 5am with your door kicked in and a machine gun stuffed up your nose, you should remember this: You asked for it.

Incidentally, on your first assertion , you are right. I want idiots like you dna'ed too.

bananaman said...

Iain,

I enjoy reading your blog and often think that your articles are authorative and well thought out. But this article feels as if you have just thought it out as if you have gone along.

What right does the Government have to take my DNA? I'm not giving mine full stop.

Anonymous said...

Trumpeter Lanfried said...
"I entirely agree. If the Police Federation and ACPO will agree to have every serving and retired police officer DNA'd ... then I would be prepared to look at this again."

Most police officers already have to provide a DNA sample for the elimination database.

Anonymous said...

We don't need to DNA everybody. Why not get a sample from every male over the age of 10?
Women don't murder people. Or if they do, it's usually a "domestic".

Anonymous said...

"Most police officers already have to provide a DNA sample for the elimination database."

Yes and they are the ONLY people entitled to have their DNA profiles taken off the database again. If there's nothing to fear why did the police insist on being the exception?

Anonymous said...

Ian,
Of course it's again only the b*****d English to which DNA on arrest applies. The sample is destroyed in Scotland unless the individual is charged.
See - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7260821.stm

Johnny Norfolk said...

For once I hope the Euro court makes Britain remove the DNA records of all those that have not been convicted of a criminal offence. The state have no right to do that and Labour should not have let it happen.

How you have a problem with this Iain is strange.

DiscoveredJoys said...

One weakness in Iain's argument is that the DNA database does not necessarily prevent a second rape or murder etc., the DNA database aids conviction after the second crime has been committed.

Also, from the data in the article mentiond by Calais, the chance of an incorrect match is around 1 in 1,000,000. This means that in the UK there are around 60 other people who will be mistakenly shown to share the same DNA markers as me, plus there will be 59 other people who (by chance) actually do have the same markers as me. This means that my chance of being mistakenly identifed by DNA alone is no better than 1 in 120.

Rather takes the edge off the idea that DNA will prevent serious crime and is a super duper source of evidence.

Anonymous said...

There is one simple way to stop the police advocating a full DNA database. We can explain that once it is set up then the size of all police forces will be halved, as they will no longer be needed because a full DNA database will make crime solving so easy. Of course, the day this announcement is made will be the day that ACPO and the Police Federation instantly attack a full DNA database.

The current situation is a mess because the old rule, that only the DNA of those convicted is kept, has been superseded by a lottery. Those arrested are on the register and those not arrested are not. We need to go back to the system where only the guilty are registered. We do not need a full DNA database open to all E.U. countries

The real worry about DNA is that the technology has not been developed to the point where all DNA samples are unique. Thus, there are about 59 people in UK who provide the same DNA samples as me. Yet, the courts are encouraged to treat all DNA samples as almost unique. This is done by producing experts who swear to the probability of the DNA sample belonging to someone else, which is usually said to be “a billion to one“. There have already been at least two cases where samples have been proved to belong to someone else because the alleged perpetrators had ‘cast iron’ alibis. There has also been an insidious attempt to “water down” the DNA samples needed by use of the low copy number techniques. Now, thankfully partially discredited.

I am afraid this is all part of the “prosecution has its hands tied behind its back” myth. A myth peddled by Michael Howard, Tony Blair and David Blunkett and now part of accepted fact. This myth has led to a very dangerous erosion of our liberties.

Fingerprint evidence no longer needs to come up to the old 16 point standard. Silence is no longer a right, as an adverse inference can be drawn from it (note that the General defending the Guantanamo Bay on prosecutions on Newsnight pointedly said that no adverse inference could be drawn from silence at the proposed military courts). Double jeopardy has been abolished and Haddock, bad character evidence can be used in court, if the judge allows and so a jury can now hear previous convictions in certain circumstances. Also, all professionals must now report clients they suspect of money laundering eg. (or should I write ie) failing to pay taxes, to the prosecuting authorities.

In addition, the newspapers persist in claiming that our system is so weak that no one is sent to prison but also report the highest prison population ever. In fact, judges and magistrates are sending more people to jail than ever before. This is not a bad thing, provided those people are really guilty . I am afraid that an erosion of ancient safeguards will increase instances of miscarriages of justice.

I suspect that the real agenda is nothing more than one of saving money. Therefore, the government is desperate to “de-skill” the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Hence, the proliferation of legislation allowing non-Police Officers to undertake police work and non- Solicitors and Barristers to undertake CPS court work (even magistrates court trials). If you use unskilled people to do skilled work then you need to make it much easier for them, hence the undermining of traditional liberties. Also, criminal legal aid is being savagely cut, to the extent that criminal defence solicitors already earn less than plumbers. The idea being to make sure firms use 'numpties' to fight the new unskilled ‘police’ and CPS. Justice has nothing to do with this.

Anonymous said...

Government exits to serve the people, not the other way round. They have no right to take away freedoms. ('that government is best which governs least'. - Thoreau).

Why should *we* have to emigrate because *they* try to impose fundamentally immoral laws? This country is ours as much as theirs.

Anonymous said...

Once the database holds the DNA of about 25% of the population between the age of 16 - 60 then effectively all adults will have at least a part of their DNA on the database and in practical fact will have near 100% coverage.

With the inevitable dying off of people over 60 and young people who are already on the database who then go on to have their own children the actual percentage of the population with part or all of their DNA on the database will continue to inexorably climb because of the pure mathematics of DNA passing from generation to generation.

That means that even if the police stopped taking DNA once it had reached the 25% threshold the database would de facto remain at close to 100% coverage of the entire population with at least a part of their DNA on the database for the next 75 - 100 years.

At present, I believe we are close to about 10% of the adult population between 16 - 60 on the database so we are already getting quite close to near total coverage.

If we added in mandatory coverage of say airport workers, police and armed service personal that coverage would quickly climb close to the critical threshold.

I would like to see proper Parliamentary debate before we reach that critical threshold point as it will be very difficult to row back from it once the datbase becomes a de facto reality.

Yak40 said...

I would not trust this bunch of control freaks to only use such data for the stated reasons.

This lot also can't be trusted to either implement a DNA database or to keep it secure. They've amply demonstrated this already.

Anonymous said...

"My only exceptions to the "No DNA record unless charged" rule would be for people interviewed on suspicion of rape or murder. I accept that it would mean some innocent people being added to the DNA register"

some - including most of those accused of rape. The vast majority of rape allegations are entirely bogus. Women often make these claims as revenge for not having been bought a sufficiently expensive dinner. You really don't know anything about females. Or justice.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"Once the database holds the DNA of about 25% of the population between the age of 16 - 60 then effectively all adults will have at least a part of their DNA on the database and in practical fact will have near 100% coverage."

Nearly 40% of the black 16-60 population are on the DNA database. That is one of the reasons why it is proving so effective.

Anonymous said...

DiscoveredJoys said...

"This means that my chance of being mistakenly identifed by DNA alone is no better than 1 in 120.

Rather takes the edge off the idea that DNA will prevent serious crime and is a super duper source of evidence."

The odds you quote, apart from being dubious, are irrelevant because no-one in this country has ever been convicted on the strength of DNA evidence alone.

What the DNA evidence does is to define a very small sub-set of the population within which a principal suspect is likely to be found.

Anonymous said...

Sex crims, gen murderers etc kill a few hundred (at most) a year. The scum of the state between 1900--2000 world wide killed 200,000,000 human beings--not including wars--just those rounded up and killed or polished off by man-made deliberate famine. Lets, to catch some small fry, give the most evil and wicked a tool that will massively extend their power over us.
Don't bother telling me it can't happen here: the preparation is already underway--we are just waiting for enough disasterous events to give the killers a chance to step up to bat.

Yak40 said...

no-one in this country has ever been convicted on the strength of DNA evidence alone.

Yet.

Laws can be changed, "security" or "for the children".
Wait for it.