Who Do We Trust To Run The DNA Database?

The Government’s latest big idea to put its abysmal record on crime and the causes of crime looks no less likely to fail abysmally than all their other initiatives, crackdowns and reorganisations.

The new wheeze is to create a DNA database with a record of everybody in the country’s DNA stored in it. Leaving out the track record of Government I.T. projects (because we will doubtless be returning to that in the future) The question is in view of the fact they have lost control of the streets can we trust the Police to manage something as complex as a DNA Database?

In the past all the government’s efforts to convince us their “war on crime” was succeeding were based on telling blatant lies and backing them up with fraudulent statistics. This has fooled nobody except silly Polly Toynbee, a journalist who is still so gusset-creamingly in love with Tony Blair she insists we have all been taken in by the hysterical reporting of crime favoured by The Daily Mail and other tabloids.

It seems the demands of highbrow socialist journos for “justice for all” define “all” as non white, non British, non straight, non males or asylum seeking, thieving, cheating, human trafficking pikey scum from Eastern Europe (my mate Adil’s description of the latest arrivals in town, not mine.) As for the rest of us, who cares that our gardens have been vandalised, our cars keyed and our sheds torched?
The reality, according to dear Pol is that crime, having fallen at an accelerating rate for a decade is now so low that people are breaking into your house to leave TVs, Video Recorders, jewellery and cash. Crime figures are now negative for all crimes except being nasty to blacks and Asians, women, gays, immigrants (especially asylum seekers) and psychopathic axe murderers.
Its the kind of thing that gets liberalism a bad name, and from such an unlikely source. Polly is a smart, elegant woman, not the type to go around in a dress made from Jilly Cooper’s old curtains and a pair of rope sandals.
Everybody knows there is such a dearth of good new novels these days because all the best fiction writers are employed making up government statistics.

I have written to Polly many times to explain the reason why crime figures fall year on year is because the statistics used are based on crimes reported to the police rather than crimes committed. I don’t know what happens where you live but round here the last thing crime victims want to do is get the police involved. It’s a waste of time and can put people at risk.
Let’s follow what happens. Two or three days after you are mugged, burgled, vandalised etc. the police turn up and while WPC Sillytits explains empathetically that there is little they can do unless they catch the culprit red handed, her colleague PC Dimmock knocks on the door of Mr. Ruthless Bastard, the local fence and drug dealer who has more convictions for ABH and GBH than a beach has grains of sand. P.C. Dimmock says, “ ‘ello ‘ello ello Ruthless Bastard, we’ve got you band to rights this time. Mr. Decent at Number 14 tells us you tried to sell him the stuff what was nicked from his house.
A few days later, following your release from hospital, a victim support officer calls at your house and tries to recruit you for a scheme that involves spying on neighbours and reporting anything suspicious to police so that PC Dimmock can go straight round to Ruthless Bastards house and tell him Mr. Decent saw him handing small bags of white powder to people wearing hoodies in exchange for £20 notes. PC Dimmock’s warning that “we’ll be keeping an eye on you” leaves Ruthless Bastard quaking in his shoes.
Does anybody think this is at all far fetched?
Not so long ago in Burnley there was a case of somebody giving information on a suspect who was arrested but “walked” due to procedural error. The informant later had his home vandalised and his car torched while members of his family were attacked.
So now you know why crime figures look so good, would you trust the Police to manage a DNA Database?

6 thoughts on “Who Do We Trust To Run The DNA Database?

  1. The thought of my DNA being put on a database run by *any* government agency is just too scary to contemplate. The same as them having my iris print, fingerprints or whatever on an ID card. Given their track record of incompetence, huge overspend, and then giving the info to any (semi-)official tom, dick or harry who asks for it, it is just too much.

    E.g. when I first licensed my car, I never signed an agreement that they could flog my personal details to some car parking company – but I still got done for unknowingly overstaying in a business park carpark for 5 minutes. How can they get away with it? Data protection my a*%e

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    1. One of my top five Latin phrases.

      I wonder if people realise the ID cards will contain an RFID chip which will enable satellite tracking systems to report our wherabouts at any time.

      Good job they can be disabled with a fridge magnet eh?

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  2. Ten myths about the police National DNA Database
    February 2008
    Background
    In England and Wales, the police now take DNA samples routinely without consent
    from anyone aged ten or above who is arrested in connection with any recordable
    offence. Recordable offences include being drunk and disorderly, taking part in an
    illegal demonstration and minor acts of criminal damage by children, caused by
    kicking footballs or throwing snowballs. A false accusation is sufficient to be arrested
    on suspicion of committing an offence. All DNA samples are kept permanently by the
    companies that analyse them, and the computerised DNA profiles and personal data
    (such as name and ethnic group) are also kept permanently on the National DNA
    Database, even if a person is never charged or is acquitted.
    In Scotland, DNA may be taken on arrest for any imprisonable offence and
    computerised DNA profiles and samples are kept permanently if the individual is
    convicted. However, the Scottish Parliament voted against permanent retention of
    DNA from innocent people, in May 2006. Instead, police powers were expanded to
    allow temporary retention (for up to 5 years) from a much smaller number of people
    who had been charged but acquitted of a serious violent or sexual offence.
    In Northern Ireland, the law is the same as in England and Wales, but it has not yet
    been fully implemented.

    Myth 1. Keeping more people’s records on the DNA database will make it more effective

    The value of entering increasing numbers of DNA profiles from individuals on the
    Database (unrelated to the reason for arrest) is that it may allow investigation of a
    past crime to be re-opened, by unexpectedly identifying a new suspect. The purpose
    of retaining an individual’s DNA profile on a database is to treat them as a suspect for
    any future crime. Keeping DNA profiles from convicted criminals has been shown to
    be effective, as has collecting more DNA from crime scenes. But keeping DNA
    profiles from unconvicted people on the Database has not helped to solve more
    crimes: the proportion of recorded crimes detected using DNA has not increased in
    the last 5 years, despite 2 million more people’s records being kept. The Government
    has provided evidence of DNA matches with unconvicted persons, but matches are
    not the same as prosecutions or convictions – many matches occur with victims or
    passers-by or are false matches. The number of false matches will increase as the
    Database gets bigger.

    Myth 2. Keeping the records of unconvicted people on the DNA database makes us all safer

    If people are a danger to society, it makes sense to keep their DNA profiles on the
    Database. But vulnerable people may be put at risk by being on the Database,
    because an individual’s computerised DNA profile can be used to trace their
    movements or identify relatives. If a person’s DNA sample is also accessed, other
    personal information about their health may also be obtained. If criminals can
    infiltrate the system they may be able to use it to identify people whose identity is
    protected, including vulnerable women or children, or people in witness protection
    schemes. The permanent retention of records of arrest, linked to DNA, also means 2
    there is significant potential for individuals to suffer erosions of their rights. Potential
    abuses could include: refusal of visas or access to visa waiver schemes (such as that
    operated by the US); refusal of employment; and excessive Government or police
    surveillance (of individuals or selected groups of people).

    Myth 3. Removing the records of unconvicted people would allow murders and rapists to walk free

    Adopting a policy of removal of records in line with Scotland’s would make no
    difference to cases such as the Ipswich and Sally-Ann Bowman murders. The
    chance of a crime scene DNA profile matching an individual’s profile on the DNA
    Database is higher in Scotland than in England and Wales, even though most people
    have their records removed from the Database on acquittal in Scotland. Keeping
    records of vulnerable women and children on the Database does not make them
    safer, because of the danger of misuse.

    Myth 4. Individuals with records on the Database will only be identified if they have committed a serious crime

    Most people whose names are sent from the Database to the police in ‘match
    reports’ are not subsequently convicted of any crime: for example, they may have
    been at the crime scene earlier in the day, or the match may be a false one. In
    addition, all Police National Computer records are now kept permanently, linked to
    the National DNA Database. Information contained in these records may be used to
    refuse someone a visa or a job, even if they have never been convicted of a crime.
    The retention of permanent records of arrest is unprecedented in British history.

    Myth 5. Information will only be shared with other countries if it is needed to investigate a serious offence

    There is now a presumption in favour of data-sharing across the European Union for
    the purposes of crime prevention and detection. However, other European countries
    only keep DNA profiles of convicted criminals permanently on their databases,
    whereas the Database in England and Wales contains DNA profiles from around a
    million unconvicted people, about 100,000 of whom are under 18. Although the police
    in other countries will not be given direct access to the DNA database, a plan is being
    developed to allow them to submit crime scene DNA profiles and to receive reports
    on matches with individuals’ profiles on the Database. A worst case scenario is that
    someone who infiltrates the law enforcement system of another country could use
    this system to track down a potential victim, by submitting a DNA profile obtained
    from, say, the toothbrush of a child, rather than a crime scene. Other governments –
    for example, the US – may also seek records of arrest, or the DNA profiles of named
    individuals.

    Myth 6. DNA evidence is foolproof

    DNA evidence is not foolproof: false matches can occur by chance, especially if
    the DNA profile from the crime scene is not complete. The National DNA
    Database Annual Report 2005/06 states that between May 2001 and April 2006,
    50,434 matches with crime scene profiles, or 27.6% of the total number of match
    reports, involved a list of potential suspects, not a single suspect, being given to
    the police, because matches with multiple records on the Database were made.
    The increasing use of Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA analysis – which allows a
    DNA profile to be extracted from a single cell – has led the Director of the
    Forensic Institute in Edinburgh to warn that innocent people may be wrongly 3
    identified as suspects as a consequence of being on the Database. For example,
    a single cell of DNA can be transferred from someone who had never been at a
    crime scene, simply because they had earlier shaken hands with the perpetrator.
    The LCN technique was strongly criticised by the judge in the Omagh bombing
    trial.

    Myth 7. Keeping individuals’ DNA profiles on the Database helps to exonerate innocent people who have been falsely accused of committing crimes

    A DNA database is not required to provide evidence of guilt or innocence when there
    is a known group of suspects for a specific crime: a computerised DNA profile can be
    obtained from each individual and compared directly with a crime scene DNA profile.
    A database of individual DNA profiles is therefore unnecessary to exonerate an
    innocent person – their DNA profile can be taken directly from them, rather than
    looked up on a database. The ‘added value’ of putting individuals on a database is
    only to introduce new suspects into an investigation.

    Myth 8. The Database can only be used to identify an individual, not for other purposes

    The Database may be used for any “purposes related to the prevention or detection
    of crime”. Uses now include: familial searching (using partial DNA matches to try to
    identify the relatives of a suspect); searching by name; and undertaking various types
    of genetic research (including controversial attempts to predict ethnic appearance
    from DNA). Undertaking genetic research using the Database or samples is a breach
    of the usual ethical requirements for consent to such research.

    Myth 9: Putting everybody on the Database would be fairer and would help to solve more crimes

    To put everyone on the database would require DNA to be taken from all British
    residents and visitors, by force if necessary, sent to laboratories and analysed, and
    put on the computer database, linked with each person’s name and address. This
    would be an enormous and expensive distraction from solving crimes, as well as
    increasing the likelihood of errors and misuse. If everyone in the world was on a DNA
    Database this would lead to more crimes, not less, because of the danger of misuse
    by governments and infiltration by organised criminals, who could use it to track
    victims and political opponents.

    Myth 10. People’s DNA profiles, samples and personal details can only be accessed by a small number of people

    Copies of the personal information collected by the police when someone is arrested
    – such as name and ethnic appearance – are sent with people’s DNA samples to the
    commercial laboratories which analyse and store the samples, rather than directly to
    the central DNA Database. Records of arrest – although not the DNA profiles
    themselves – are also kept on the Police National Computer (PNC). A wide range of
    agencies, including potential employers, can access information from the PNC.

    GeneWatch UK, 60 Lightwood Road, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 7BB
    Phone: 01298 24300
    Email: mail@genewatch.org Website: http://www.genewatch.org
    Registered in England and Wales Company Number 3556885

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