Feeds

National DNA Database: have your say

No guarantees Blair will listen though

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Wary of "mission creep" in the National DNA Database, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has launched a year-long project investigating the government's push to fingerprint the DNA of every person in the UK.

The timely intervention comes after a speech by Tony Blair last week. During a visit to the Forensic Science Service he said there should be no limits on the development of the National DNA Database, already the largest repository of human DNA in the world. He said: "The number on the database should be the maximum number you can get."

Blair's comments came despite government statements that "the majority of the active criminal population now have their DNA recorded."

The law currently grants authorities the right to collect and retain the DNA of anyone arrested, regardless of whether thay are charged, prosecuted or convicted of any offence. In January this year the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 hit statute books, effectively abolishing the concept of an "arrestable offence". Police are now able to detain for any offence.

The implication is that someone mistakenly arrested for an offence as trivial as littering will now have their DNA sampled, fingerprinted and stored in perpetuity on the National DNA Database.

Scientists at Nuffield are concerned the public and legal system have been seduced by the portrayal of DNA evidence as infallible. Dr Carole McCartney of Leeds University, who is leading the Nuffield consultation told The Register: "DNA has become so popular in the public imagination."

She expressed concern at a recent prosecution where a man was prosecuted for a robbery on two strands of evidence: he had been seen in the vicinity and a DNA profile matching his had been found near the scene. Professor McCartney said: "My DNA is all over my local off-licence. If it gets robbed will I automatically be a suspect?"

Professor Alec Jeffreys, credited with inventing DNA fingerprinting, told the BBC's Today programme this morning: "When the DNA database was initially established, it was to database DNA from criminals so if they re-offended, they could be picked up."

"Now hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent people are now populating that database, people who have come to the police's attention, for example by being charged with a crime and subsequently released."

Professor Jeffreys also expressed concerns at the current database's uneven social distribution. He said: "My view is that that is discriminatory." One in three black men are on the database, compared to one in four of the male population. Recently introduced familial searching techniques will have extended its reach to the majority of the UK black population.

The 24,000 under-18s sampled already by the database are a cause for concern at Nuffield too.

In March 2005, the cross-party House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology found public views were poorly informed on the storage of DNA were not well known by politicians. To respond to the Nuffield consultation, start here. The Council is part of the Nuffield Foundation, a government-independent charitable trust which supports academic research. It'll report its findings this time next year. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.