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Saturday, December 06, 2008

An effective database

Listening to the Liberal Democrats' Home Affairs' Spokesperson, Chris Huhne speak at a dinner last night reminded me that I have not blogged on the landmark ruling by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, which condemned the "blanket and indiscriminate" nature of the powers given to the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to retain the DNA samples and fingerprints of suspects who have been released or cleared.

The decision means that fingerprints and DNA samples of more than 857,000 innocent citizens who have been arrested or charged but never convicted of a criminal offence now face deletion from the national DNA database. About 340,000 of these citizens are under the age of 18.

The court said there was a particular risk that innocent people would be stigmatised because they were being treated in the same way as convicted criminals. The judges added that the fact DNA profiles could be used to identify family relationships between individuals, meant its indefinite retention also amounted to an interference with their right to respect for their private lives under the human rights convention.

This is good news. What is not so good is the fact that in their obsession to get as many people as possible on this DNA database the Government has failed to make it effective as a genuine crime-fighting tool.

Research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that more than 2.3 million criminals, 41.6% of all criminals with a record on the Police National Computer, are not on the DNA database. The number of crimes solved using DNA evidence fell by nearly 12% last year.

As Chris Huhne says: "The Government's policy is both shambolic and grotesquely unfair. Because it has proved easier to target kids and the innocent than criminals, the enormous increase in DNA samples has not led to a corresponding increase in convictions.

"Nobody who committed a crime before 2001 and who has evaded arrest since then will have their records on the computer, so many real crooks are avoiding detection. The random growth of the database is due to a policy of incompetence combined with intrusiveness. The police should target former criminals, not the innocent.

"All the innocent people on the database will be outraged that they are being treated worse than nearly half of all convicted criminals. Ministers should focus on tracking down the serious offenders not on the database, rather than preying on the vulnerable and the lawful."


Since my query from the begining of October hasn't been answered by the Criminal Record Bureau, can I take the liberty of putting my letter on your website for the World to see?

CF34 9

3rd October 2008.

Mr Neil Meek
Criminal Records Bureau
PO Box 165
L69 3JD

Dear Mr Meek

Fingerprints Customer Ref: 18843026

Following the letter to Mr Osian Jones (Wales Council for Voluntary Action), dated 26th Sept. I would like to draw to your attention the following points which I would like you to address.

I have another CRB check in the system, this time for CRI (Crime Reduction Initiative) 38a Caroline St., Bridgend. Once I have proven who I am (or who I am not), I trust I won’t have to go through this same rigmarole again with this CRB check? Additionally, I am a Foster Carer, and I understand my CRB check from Bridgend CBC Social Services is due for renewal in May 2009.

Within the aforementioned letter you state “…To do this, we compare applicant’s fingerprints with those held on the PNC.” And “To resolve the issue of identity, an expert will then compare the applicant’s fingerprints to the copies retained on the police record…..” In the last forty two years of my entire life, I have been fingerprinted on two occasions:

a) In a general science lesson, first year in Sandfields Comprehensive Lower School, circa 1977.
b) On March 6th this year, going through United States Immigration at San Francisco Airport.

Does this mean that my fingerprints which were collected by United States Immigration authorities in March this year are now held on the Police National Computer?

Kindest Regards

Gary Lewis
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