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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Whose DNA?

Welsh Liberal Democrat MP, Jenny Willott is to be commended for securing three pages of the Western Mail this morning on government DNA policy, including page one. She has also managed to do this without once mentioning the Cheeky Girls.

Jenny is rightly concerned at the fact that one in 10 people in Wales are on the national DNA database after a huge surge in the number of samples taken by the police. Many of the 264,420 on the database are innocent and have never been charged with any offence, but their sample is kept for life. Disturbingly more than 7,155 samples have been taken from under-16 year olds. The annual number of samples taken by Welsh police forces was twice as high in 2006-07 as it was a decade ago.

There is no doubt that advances in DNA technology has helped clear up many crimes and nobody would want to get in the way of that. However, the accumulation of so many profiles is superfluous to this process. The Government has not even made a case as to why they need to retain the information once it has been used for the purpose it was collected for.

Liberty has expressed serious concerns about the scope for errors in the use of the DNA database and possible future abuses of the data. The paper tells us that there is growing concern at the aggressive way in which DNA is collected, especially from people who have committed no crime whatsoever, and the lack of a common approach to requests by innocent members of the public who wish to have their data removed from the computer.

They quote the case of pensioner, Geoffrey Orchard who was told by Dyfed Powys Police that his details would remain on the DNA database, even though the 75 year old received an apology from the force after he was wrongly arrested.

A Libery spokesperson tells the paper that "A smaller, more manageable DNA database of those convicted of serious sexual and violent offences would be a speedier crime-fighting tool and cost less to our purses and our privacy.”

It is difficult to disagree.
yes, well done Jenny (and also Peter for pointing this out), this is exactly the sort of thing the LDs should be about.

Is it me, or is the party sharpening up?
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