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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Supporting the innocent

Whilst some police officers continue to call for a national DNA database, a case has started in the European Court of Human Rights that may make such arguments academic. The Times reports that two Britons, who were cleared of crimes, brought a case to the court yesterday to have their DNA samples destroyed.

I have a huge amount of sympathy with this position. I think that it is right that retaining such information casts suspicion on people who have been acquitted of crimes or who have their cases dropped.

The paper tells us that the case comes just days after the convictions of two killers in Britain as a result of DNA matches. Steve Wright, the Suffolk Strangler, and Mark Dixie, who killed Sally Anne Bowman, were caught because their DNA had been taken in connection with unrelated offences.

Arguments that a universal DNA database would have led to earlier convictions do not stand up to scrutiny. All that is required is a database of those convicted of serious criminal offences. This is because both convicted men already had a criminal record. If their DNA had been taken at the time and kept then in at least one case they would have been caught earlier.

We really must avoid being caught up in the fog of misinformation on this matter. The state does not need to retain records of the DNA of innocent people, not least because they cannot be trusted to keep it secure.
As a detective working on it pointed out in an official statement, one of the recent high-profile convictions was obtained by "good old-fashioned police work" without recourse to DNA testing.

One cannot help feeling that most of the Norfolk prostitutes could have been saved if their danger had been taken seriously by a properly-resourced police force after Tania Nicol's body had been found.
Chris Huhne was very effective in demolishing the pseudo-arguments for a national database earlier in the week.

To my mind this is exactly the sort of issue that answers the cynics taunt of 'what exactly are the Liberals for'.

We must never make the mistake of surrendering our freedom assuming that the UK govt will forever reain benign (or just be incompetent like the current one).
The boys in blue don't have time to take fingerprints at a crime scene; when will they have time to genetically fingerprint 55 million people living in the UK.
The argument's academic in anycase, as to my understanding the UK government has said it wouldn't want to have one ayway.
At one stage they said they didn't want an ID card scheme and were not going to introduce top up tuition fees as well. Not sure if I would trust them on this either.
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