Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Should police hold the DNA of all of us...?

The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire is at the heart of a debate this morning after a top Judge says the entire population of the UK should be on the national DNA data-base.

DNA evidence solves 20,000 crimes a year - and helps put scores of villains behind bars for crimes they thought could never be detected.

DNA has proved a huge asset to the police, particularly in bringing rapists and paedophiles to justice for horrific sexual attacks committed a generation ago - long before the technology which has solved them was developed.

According to the BBC, Lord Justice Sedley says the entire population - and every visitor to Britain - should be on the DNA datebase.

Chief Constable Tony Lake - who chairs the national DNA Board - sensibly says the DNA of people arrested or convicted for violent or sex offences should remain on the database for life. But he says that need not be the case for minor offences.

That seems a sensible way forward - at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, Shami Chakrabarti director of the human rights outfit Liberty, is outraged at the thought of putting the entire population on the DNA database.

Maybe she should give more thought to the victims of crime. Don't they have human rights too?

If it could be shown that taking the DNA from everyone in the country could help make our communities safer, then we'd be daft not to go for it, wouldn't we?

8 comments:

Mark said...

I'd happily queue for a few moments to give mine.

And I'd be glad to have an identity card, too.

(Now, shall I be anonymous here ... no, blow it, I'll call pretend my name is Keith and wave a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up my nose ... )

fairdealphil said...

thanks keith...be careful you don't mix the deckchair with the chicken...

Geoffrey Brooking said...

What you really mean Phil is do we all want to be part of a big brother police state.

Surely people's liberty's should come first.

Two interesting facts to note are that whilst 4.5% of British people have their DNA already held on the database in the USA the figure is less than 1% and whilst one in five black people are on the database the figure for white people is nearer 1 in 25.

The phrase "institutional racism" springs to mind.

Liz said...

My husband and I differ on this subject. He thinks that all citizens should have their DNA stored whilst I find the idea abhorrent. I also dislike the fact that someone arrested for a minor offence and then found not guilty has their DNA retained. I am leaning towards the argument that their should be a time limit for holding DNA depending on the offence committed.

I acknowledge that DNA is a wonderful tool which is particularly useful in the detection of serious offences. I do wonder what programmes like CSI will do in the future as offenders become more sophisticated and are able to commit offences without leaving a trace. Yes, I admit to watching the Crime Channel which often highlights the efforts made by offenders to bypass science in the detection process.

There is no rationale for my feelings as I am in favour of ID Cards. I can only go so far as to say that those arrested for some types of sexual offences (paedophiles/rapists) should always have their DNA retained. I do think we need to distinguish between sexual offences - USI between young people does not warrant long term retention on the DNA data base. Similarly, I feel that we have to differentiate between violent offences. A street fight by a young person who is intoxicated does not make him/her a serious risk to the public throughout their life. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an armed robber and some category of murderer would warrant life retention of DNA.

By speaking out, the Learned Judge has sparked a debate which is welcomed. We do need to review the DNA data base and I am sure that there will be many opinions on how best to do this. It has certainly sparked discussion in my home as well as with friends!

Tim said...

So the misfortunes of 20,000 cases justify the inconvenience and abuse of privacy of the remaining nearly-60-million of us? The expansion of a database will only scale the "good" but not introduce any potential for abuse in its own right?

Get a grip.

Dave Pearson said...

Liz said: I can only go so far as to say that those arrested for some types of sexual offences (paedophiles/rapists) should always have their DNA retained.

All those arrested? Really? Why?

fairdealphil said...

interesting points made by all which shows we need the proper national debate which the Judge and Chief Constable were calling for.

Anonymous said...

I think liz raises some very relevent points - i dont believe that someone should have their dna kept just because they were arrested - only if convicted and then only if as liz states for certain specific serious crimes - it surely cant be right for Kathleen Jennings aged 19 see url http://education.guardian.co.uk/students/news/story/0,,2162547,00.html to have her dna kept on record for life just because she had the misfortune to be arrested on a train by an over zealous low IQ moron for resting her feet on a train seat.

I am 42 and had the misfortune to have an argument with another motorist on a quiet road in wales and in a matter of minutes the whole welsh constabulary arrived in the manner of responding to another 911 - this must have been the biggest event for them for a decade - needless to say i got arrested as did the other motorist - they decided to caution both of us and let us go but not after having our dna taken from us.

I have never been in trouble with the police before and apart from a speeding ticket (in North Wales !!) have had no contact with the police - so now I have to have a record of my DNA on their system for the rest of my life - where are my rights on this and who gave them the power to do this to us the people who pay for their existence.

Irritated