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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are the police deliberatively building up the DNA database?

Fascinating article in The Times this morning in which it is suggested that Police are routinely arresting people simply to record their DNA profiles on the national database. The allegations are contained in a report by the Human Genetics Commission, an independent government advisory body.

They say that three quarters of young black men are on the database. According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and this risks stigmatising a whole section of society. The report also criticises the piecemeal development of the database and questions how effective it is in helping the police to investigate and solve crimes:

Jonathan Montgomery, commission chairman, said that “function creep” over the years had transformed a database of offenders into one of suspects. Almost one million innocent people are now on the DNA database.

Professor Montgomery said: “It’s now become pretty much routine to take DNA samples on arrest, so large numbers of people on the DNA database will be there not because they have been convicted, but because they’ve been arrested.”

Recorded crime has fallen every year since 2004-05, but the number of people arrested in England and Wales annually is rising. Latest figures show that arrests rose by 6 per cent to 1.43 million in 2005 and a further 4 per cent to 1.48 million in 2006-07.

Professor Montgomery said there was some evidence that people were arrested to retain the DNA information even though they might not have been arrested in other circumstance.

He said that a retired senior police officer told the commission: “It is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything if there is a power to do so. It is apparently understood by serving police officers that one of the reasons . . . is so that DNA can be obtained.” He said that the tradition of only arresting someone when dealing with serious offences had collapsed.

The commission report said that the database should be placed on a clear statutory basis and overseen by an independent authority. That is a recommendation I support.


Shortly after the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 came into force, posters appeared in police stations throughout England and Wales reminding officers that their powers of arrest had been extended for a range of offences, including detention on suspicion of an offence. Arrest figures virtually doubled in some areas and each time those arrested were compelled to provide a DNA sample and be to be fingerprinted and photographed. All three sets of data are retained indefinitely regardless of whether an individual is charged. It is not enough to simply amend the practice of DNA sample but to change SOCPA so that circumstances for arrest and detention are made more in keeping with the civil liberties that should underpin any democracy.
I was quite interested to see the Evening Post on Monday, to see the number of cautions given by SWP.

Two situations arise from a Caution:

1) You've done something wrong, illegal but the fuzz can't be arsed going through the arrest, charging and court, as seen by the number of cautions for sexual offenses and ABH.

2) You've done nothing wrong, but due to the colour of your skin, or PC Plod has had a domestic with "her indoors", decides to nick you for something trivial and made up, accepting the caution is easier than having the hassle of proving your innocence!

Remember Cautions appear on the CRB check that you have to undertake for most jobs these days.
What do you mean by 'deliberatively'?
Just shows how free you are in a new labour world.
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