Innocent 'terror techie' purges DNA records
More than two years after his arrest and subsequent release, techie and some-time Reg contributor David Mery has succeeded in purging the police databases of his fingerprints and DNA.
Mery was arrested in London (at an underground station) three weeks after four misguided* souls blew up the public transport network. He was wearing a coat, carrying a rucksack, behaving like a bit of a geek by checking his mobile phone, and reading a print-off from Wikipedia**. This drew the attention of London's finest, and Mery was soon helping the police with their enquiries.
While he was in custody his DNA was sampled and his fingerprints and palmprints were taken (you can read the whole story here).
Eventually, he was released and all charges were dropped. Two months later most of his possessions were returned to him, but the police records of his DNA and fingerprints were retained.
Since then, Mery has tried to get the police to scrap the bio data on him and get rid of the record of his fingerprints. To do so, one must convince the force that the case is "exceptional". Last year, just 115 cases were ruled to be "exceptional" by the UK's police forces and deleted from the database. A total of 667,737 records were added in the same period.
In related news, the British Society of Human Genetics meeting in York heard today that we need tighter controls on what may be done with DNA that has been collected for research. According to the BBC, researchers are under pressure from the organisations that fund them to allow the DNA to be used for purposes other than those for which it was collected.
Professor Marcus Pembrey, an expert in paediatric genetics, said: "The worry is there is a trend coming from pressure from the funders saying that all scientists should have unfettered access."
He warned that there was a risk that data could even make its way onto the web.
Tomorrow, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics will be publishing its Report The Forensic Use of Bioinformation: Ethical Issues. ®
** David has contacted us to say that he was reading an article about Wikipedia, not a print off from it. We apologise unreservedly for any embarrassment our terrible gaffe might have caused.
RE: Get Real
Well I think most will agree with you, not that anyone will read this now.
I have no respect for the police myself, but do have great respect for the uniform and the warrant card.
Ask me to do something or instruct me on some way and I will stop my car, or let you into my house or assist you in anyway possible, but there is still the issue of taking part in defiling peoples humans rights in terms of DNA sampling of children and then storing those records along with familial matching to catch suspects without any other evidence.
So again I respect the uniform and the powers but not the person because I don't know anything about them whatsoever.
Some people here have shabby, ill-informed little prejudices against a group of workers, most of whom are decent, well-motivated people simply trying to do a good job for the people they serve. I'm referring to the police. Perhaps they think it makes them look cool or streetwise, rather than just infantile.
I've done 30 years in the job and managed to get through that without using any kind of weapon against anyone (firearm, CS spray, or baton), even when subjected to some pretty nasty violence. I never fitted anyone up, nor did I indulge in anything remotely corrupt - apart from once accepting a free cup of coffee from a restaurant owner while taking a statement from him. But I have helped rescue people from burning buildings, given the kiss-of-life to a drowned teenager and persuaded someone on a bridge not to end their life.
I'm a staunch supporter of campaigns against ID cards, excessive public surveillance and now this ghastly idea of taking everyone's DNA, innocent or guilty, and I am happy to speak up when my colleagues step out of line and let us all down. I didn't join the job to bully people, but to police with the consent of the decent, law-abiding majority and to lock up the tiny minority who threaten their safety and make their lives a misery. Fortunately, and in spite of all our shortcomings, most people DO trust the police and they have every reason to do so.
Is the name you're looking for an explanation of why it's not a good thing that your DNA data is on a police database:
You see, once a match to you is found from a sample retrieved from a crime scene the onus is then on you to prove you're innocent, which is completely backwards. It doesn't matter how your DNA found itself at the crime scene as is clear from the David Atkinson case.