Thursday, 7 May 2009

DNA database

An excellent article by Jonathan Myerson on the DNA database, with which I wholeheartedly agree, and a piece in tomorrow's Guardian (or today by the time you read this). The Guardian is concerned that the Home Secretary proposes to keep for 12 years the DNA profiles of those arrested but not convicted of serious sexual and violent offences - and yet we know that only a tiny proportion of those responsible for rapes and serious sexual assaults are prosecuted and an even smaller proportion go on to be convicted. In other words - there are a lot of 'innocent' rapists out there.

We know that DNA evidence has helped solved a significant number of murder cases, and also, importantly, clear those who have been wrongfully imprisoned, over recent years. It has also helped police identify rapists who would otherwise never be caught and who would go on to commit many more crimes. And this is where I fall out with the liberals on the left and the libertarians on the right. One person's freedom not to have their DNA on the database is another person's freedom to rape without being caught. Or to kill without being brought to justice.

According to the Guardian "The Home Office estimates that even this package will mean 4,500 fewer crimes each year being detected ­compared with the current policy of retaining indefinitely the profiles of all those arrested."

Yes, Shami Chakrabati is right when she says the Government's proposals could mean that 'wholly innocent' people could have their details stockpiled for years. That's the cost of such a plan. But the benefit - protecting other wholly innocent people from being raped or worse, isn't that worth the sacrifice? Are your 'civil liberties' really so precious that you'd be prepared to have these crimes on your conscience?

10 comments:

Remember Remember said...

Taking DNA is rape, and no penpusher will steal it from me.
Especially now that it's a valuable commodity for insurance companies and pharma, not to mention nasty people who develop DNA-targeted viruses.

SteveL said...

"Are your 'civil liberties' really so precious that you'd be prepared to have these crimes on your conscience?"

Yes. Because the alternative: ubiquitous police state based on 7x24 monitoring of all communications, activities and movement is based on the assumption that the police are there for your benefit. That may hold right now, as long as you aren't an environment activist -but what about when david cameron gets into power. And he and his colleagues start abusing the laws that the labour party has pushed through.

The price of democracy, of a non-authoritarian state is that yes, more crimes get committed than in, say, Deutschland Democratic Republic. Does that make the Stasi acceptable? I think not.

Bristol Dave said...

One person's freedom not to have their DNA on the database is another person's freedom to rape without being caught. Or to kill without being brought to justice.I'm sorry Kerry, I can't let that one pass, what a load of rubbish. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The government seem to have (long, long ago) forgotten this very basic and important premise.

I don't agree with my DNA being stored on a database intended for criminals if I'm innocent. What's wrong with that? Even if a lot of those arrsested are not convicted I hardly see why I should suffer my details being held by a government I don't trust to keep safe because of the ineptitude of the CPS.

Even if I did in theory agree to DNA of innocent people being stored in case they were guilty all along (which I don't) how on earth, given recent examples of data loss, are we supposed to trust the security of it?

The whole idea is absurd and makes a complete mockery of any legal process we have left. But hey - don't tell me - if I've got nothing hide, I've got nothing to fear, right? Yeah, we've heard that one before.

Martin said...

In short, you're saying we must keep the DNA of innocent people to catch criminals.


Damm those innocent law abiding citizens. They're always out raping, damn them!

killemallletgodsortemout said...

One can only hope that MPs of all parties are arrested over the next few months for defrauding the taxpayer.

No doubt the little piggies will be sqealing loudly when THEIR DNA is taken.

Incidentally, is Lord Ahmed's DNA on the database, or was it delated when his conviction, and criminal record, was quashed?

Dave H said...

I don't understand why you are not arguing for everyone's DNA to be recorded -I'm not necessarily for or against that, it's just the next logical step from what you have set out.

If the overriding aim is to maximise the number of criminals caught, and plainly in your view this trumps the issues of innocence or civil liberties, then why not introduce universal profiling?

Why not have a presumption of guilt as an essential principle?

And while you're having your DNA sampled, Kerry, ask them to take your 'real' fingerprints too; exactly the same principle applies.

Kerry said...

Lord Ahmed's conviction wasn't quashed, his sentence was reduced on appeal, to a suspended sentence.

nightjack said...

Yes my civil liberties (and yours) are really that precious to me. Why are they not so precious to you. The right to limit the personal information that the state can gather or retain in respect of an innocent individual is non-negotiable. This is information gathered from those suspected of crime. Retaining the information of those who are proved to be criminal is justified. Retaining the information from those who are innocent is not. It flows from the presumption of innocence which is similarly non-negotiable.
It has always been the position that we will suffer the guilty to go free so that punishment does not fall on the innocent. I don't see that this is any different in principle

Bristol John said...

"We know that DNA evidence has helped solved a significant number of murder cases"

True, and irrelevant to the storage of innocent people's DNA. Misleading.

"It has also helped police identify rapists who would otherwise never be caught"

Unsubstantiated.

"One person's freedom not to have their DNA on the database is another person's freedom to rape without being caught."

Logical fallacy of misleading vividness and unsubstantiated.

Your only logical position can be DNA sampling at birth and stored for all time. Can you clarify?

Why is an enforced curfew after 9pm not a good way to stop late night violence?

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/domestic_politics/factcheck+dna++innocent+or+guilty/3130457

mrs_f_smith said...

Your personal views are nice to know Kerry. Just a reminder we are supposed to be in a democracy. MP's should speak for the people. So why not listen to and act on the HGC's award winning Citizen's enquiry - a public consultation on the DNA database and act on its recommendations - the destruction of all records of those not convicted.