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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The code of life

Please excuse the geeky Stargate SG1 reference in the title. This post is in fact about DNA and in particular the report of the Human Genetics Commission published today. How nice to see an independent body reinforce my own prejudices.

The Independent reports that a generation of young Britons is being criminalised for life by the relentless expansion of the national DNA database:

Alarm and hostility over the massive scale of the collection of DNA has been uncovered by groundbreaking research funded by the Home Office among panels of members of the public.

The Human Genetics Commission found there was widespread mistrust among people presented with evidence of the size of the database, which now contains the genetic records of more than four million people. It called for the database to be taken out of the control of the Home Office and police altogether, with one panel member warning that the database was a "first step towards a totalitarian state".

Britain now has by far the largest DNA database in the world. It includes an estimated one million people who have never been found guilty of any offence, some 100,000 of whom are children.

About 40 per cent of young black men have been forced to provide samples, compared with 13 per cent of Asian men and 9 per cent of white men.

Genetic material is now taken from all people arrested by police, regardless of whether they are subsequently charged or convicted, and remains on file for life.

Offences covered include begging, being drunk and disorderly, taking part in an illegal demonstration and minor acts of criminal damage caused by children kicking footballs or, in one instance, throwing a snowball.

The Commission found the public believed samples provided by the innocent should be destroyed and those of people convicted of lesser offences removed after a few years. Panels in Birmingham and Glasgow concluded that the records of children convicted of minor offences should be removed after a short period. They warned that adults are "criminalised" by having their DNA permanently on record, and suggested that the length of time it stays on the database should be proportionate to their offence. There is currently no distinction is made between someone who has been arrested for breach of the peace and someone who has murdered somebody.

The report also registered alarm over the "very lax security" protecting the database and concerns over "who had access to samples and profiles and for what purpose". The panel members unanimously supported a nationwide publicity campaign to raise awareness of the database, using the internet, posters, leaflets and school visits.

The public backed control over the database being transferred to an independent body comprising ministers, police and civilians. Juries should be given better information about DNA in trials, they said, with independent scientists explaining the evidence, in addition to those hired by the prosecution and defence.

All of this is very sensible and matches the concerns of the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Team over a significant period of time. Now we await to see if the Government will act on the report. I am not holding my breath.

No comments so far either on why the Welsh Lib Dems have failed to get their accounts in on time or on the escapades of Michael Brown.

The "alleged" money launderer who bankrolled the last Lib Dem General election campaign and has now done a runner to escape the law.

The Libs are quickly becoming the dodgiest party in the UK.
Far be it for me to ruin a good piece of political smear with the facts but Michael Brown and his escapades has nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats. No doubt he will be held to account for any crimes he has committed.

It is also worth noting the view of the Electoral Commission when they investigated this donation years ago:

The Electoral Commission has investigated the donations Mr Brown made to the Lib Dems.

It concluded it was “reasonable for the Liberal Democrats - based on the information available to them at the time - to regard the donations they received from 5th Avenue Partners Ltd in 2005, totalling just over £2.4m, as permissible.

“It remains the Commission’s view that the Liberal Democrats acted in good faith at that time, and the Commission is not re-opening the question of whether the party or its officers failed to carry out sufficient checks into the permissibility of the donations.”

As for the late accounts, they were being done by a volunteer and we screwed up. Happens to all political parties at one level or another most of the time.
"Offences covered include begging, being drunk and disorderly, taking part in an illegal demonstration and minor acts of criminal damage caused by children kicking footballs or, in one instance, throwing a snowball."

Other offences include having big lips, tight curly hair, wearing a turban in public and walking on the cracks in the pavement whilst listening to Bob Marley!
Isn't it interesting that our opponents continue to smear us with the donations from one company which occurred three years ago, while rich individuals (whose connection to the UK is not 100%) continue to bankroll other parties and their candidates in key seats?

Then there is the Smith Institute, which Guido Fawkes has openly accused of breaking charity law in its support of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party.
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