Over the span of this Labour government we’ve seen the degradation of the rule of law and attacks on evidence-based policy making, but now we have full-blown pre-criminalisation:
He said the [human genetics] commission had received evidence from a former police superintendent that it was now the norm to arrest offenders for everything possible. “It is apparently understood by serving police officers that one of the reasons, if not the reason, for the change in practice is so that the DNA of the offender can be obtained,” said Montgomery, adding that it would be a matter of very great concern if this was now a widespread practice.
The report says there is very little concrete evidence on the importance of the DNA match in leading to a conviction and whether the suspect would have been identified by other means anyway.
It argues the database creates “pre-suspects” who are the first to be checked whenever a new crime is entered. This leads to a “no smoke without fire” culture that may be pervasive and hard to overcome.
Whatever happened the presumption of innocence? How can this database have been allowed to ‘function creep’ this severely, when its to crime detection is falling, despite an exponential increase in the number of profiles retained on it? And given the way in which the database is being used, how can any of the near-million innocent people on it be confident that their genetic information won’t be misused? Over three-quarters of black men between 18 and 35 having profiles still on the database suggests something has already gone horribly wrong. There is an attitude in the criminal justice system that anything goes in avoiding risk and preventing the public from danger, but also incredible laziness by the police, who seem to think that DNA matches are the catch-all solutions to crime detection. The figures sadly prove them completely wrong. The Home Office blusters:
“DNA samples are taken on arrest for recordable offences carrying a prison sentence. The Government is clear that this is the right threshold for taking and retaining DNA. We know that the DNA database is a vital crime-fighting tool, identifying 410,589 crime scenes between 1998 and March 2009 with a DNA match and a possible lead on the possible identity of the offender.”
Yet look at the figures:
Figures show that for the past six years the number of crimes solved using DNA evidence has remained static at between 0.34 and 0.36 per cent – about one in 300 of all recorded crimes.
The number of crimes which were solved by a DNA match fell by 13 per cent to 17,614 last year as recorded crime fell overall, according to figures contained in Parliamentary answers.
Over the same period the number of people’s whose identity was on the national DNA database more than doubled in size from 1.9million people to 4.1million.
Trust the Home Office on this? I think not. Independent oversight over the National DNA Database must happen immediately. As Liberty quite rightly points out, leaving it as a tool for the police to do with as they wish is leading to abuses of people who still have the right to be presumed innocent.
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