Citizens's panel demands policing for DNA database
But not by the police
A "Citizens' Inquiry" into the Forensic Use of DNA and National DNA Database is calling for proper public debate into the issues raised by the database, education of the public about their rights and an independent body to oversee the development of the database.
The Citizens' Inquiry was made up of 30 people drafted in to help the Human Genetics Commission find out what the public thinks about the database.
The 30 people were not just quizzed on their views - they met various "experts" to learn more and discussed the issues over a period of weeks. The panel produced some unanimous recommendations but also split on some key issues.
Among the unanimous recommendations were a public awareness campaign, specific information for suspects who have their DNA taken, better information for juries dealing with DNA evidence and a commission to oversee the database and publish an annual report.
Panel members were drawn from Birmingham and Glasgow. There are some differences between the regulation of DNA databases in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Children as young as 8 can have samples taken by Scottish police and entered on the database. For England and Wales kids must be over 10.
The panel generally favoured the Scottish system - which does not record the ethnicity of people who have samples taken and also deletes profiles for people not charged with a crime or acquitted. It was noted that if England and Wales did not record ethnicity we would not know how skewed the figures are - one third of young black British men are now on the database. A majority of people believed Scottish, English and Welsh regulations should be brought together.
But the group also showed how divided opinion is on these issues. A minority argued that a universal database was preferable to the existing system - that way no one could claim to be "criminalised" by being on it. A minority supported DNA testing every child at birth.
Some argued that samples should be kept for ever while a majority believed the length of time samples are kept should be proportionate to the crime committed.
A majority supported the deletion of records and samples of people once they're found innocent or not charged with an offence. But a minority believed such records should be kept regardless of guilt or innocence - some even believed they should be kept up to five years after death in case a crime comes to light.
The HGC will now run a consultation exercise until 7 November. It will then present its final report in early 2009. ®
Reviewed, not dropped
Sounds prudent to double check but the article does point out "Mr Overland said 500 cases had been reviewed without any problems."
Another reason to object to DNA databases
Here is a story from Australia which shows why DNA databases are not the be all and end all of policing.
Charges against one person already dropped, and the re-opening of 7000 cases (yes that does say 7K) which relied on DNA evidence matched to a DNA database due to the discovery that samples were contaminated at the lab
Just to bin the idea of "DNA identity theft":
If for whatever reason your DNA sample and someone elses are mixed up on the database and the you are connected to a person object or scene by their DNA it can not be used as evidence at court.
The process works like this
Your sample is placed on the database
DNA is found on an object.
This is then compared to existing samples on the database
IF a match is found then the person it relates to needs to be spoken to
There may be a perfectly reasonable explaination why your DNA would be there.
If sufficient grounds exist, and excluding you as a suspect would be one, another sample of DNA is taken from you to compare with that taken at the scene
So its matched object to physical person, not object to database. So you could never be convicted based on a database entry alone as it without doubt contains errors. For one thing there's bound to be multiple identical samples under different names if criminals have given false details.
The point about driving licenses is well made. Consider: An ID card with your photo , your name and date of birth and nothing else contains as much _private_ information as a DNA sample STR+ as described above. Neither tell anyone anything about your disposition, political views, tendency to violence.
Yet an ID card system is ubiquitous in many liberal civilised countries without them falling under the jackboot of fascist oppression (I'm just back from Spain and I though I was mostly tipsy on cheap wine I noticed no oppression)
Those who think our Police are Orwellian Storm troopers should get out more. A society where the police have to cravenly apologise for not realising beforehand that a picture of a puppy training to be a police dog would cause offence to Glasgow shop-owners has indeed gone very wrong but not in the direction you'd suggest. True story.
Alien because some of the comments show an only passing knowledge of the real world. That's what happens when you believe everything you read on t'internet I guess.