In December the government was told by the European Court of Human Rights that retaining innocent people’s DNA records on the national DNA database was illegal. Today Jacqui Smith decided she didn’t care:
The genetic profiles of hundreds of thousands of innocent people are to be kept on the national DNA database for up to 12 years in a decision critics claim is designed to sidestep a European human rights ruling that the “blanket” retention of suspects’ data is unlawful.
The proposed new rules for the national DNA database to be put forward tomorrow by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, include plans to keep the DNA profiles of innocent people who are arrested but not convicted of minor offences for six years.
The proposal would also apply to children from age 10 who are arrested but never successfully prosecuted.
Splendid. So rather than comply with the court, she’s decided to defy the law, conventional wisdom and statistics. She says:
“It is crucial that we do everything we can to protect the public by preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice. The DNA database plays a vital role in helping us do that and will help ensure that a great many criminals are behind bars where they belong,” said Smith.
Yes it does Jacqui, but it’s also been proven that keeping everyone on the database has done nothing more to prevent crime or bring offenders to justice. Does she not understand the distinction, is she just stupid, or doesn’t she care? DNA profiling pioneer Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys says:
“I do not see this as balanced and proportionate. It still places England, Wales and Northern Ireland as the only jurisdictions in the world, to my knowledge, to retain such large amounts of innocent DNA information.”
Jeffreys dismissed a Home Office prediction that 4,500 fewer crimes will be detected if the proposals go ahead.
“There is an unspoken assumption in here that these thousands of crimes that will not be detected by not having the DNA will remain undetected and that simply isn’t the case. A significant number of these will be detectable through conventional police work, including the obtaining of fresh police DNA samples.”
He demanded that the government release further details of its concerns about poorer detection rates.
“We have been told some very cursory figures. One would like to know a great deal more. Are these serious crimes? Are they a relatively small number of individuals, for example serial burglars? We don’t have that information at all. And we need that information to be able to balance the improved ability to detect these crimes against the right to a private life.”
He makes entirely the right case. Not only is it entirely right that many of these thousands of crimes would indeed be detectable by conventional police work, but it’s entirely unclear where the Home Office feels its current advantage lies in keeping innocent people on the database. From the looks of it it’s represents a continuation of the government’s now near total adherence to precriminalisation in their obsession with ‘protection’. Mark Thomas points out:
Smith’s new regime leaves the innocent who have been cleared of charges of minor, non-violent crime on the database for six years, which erodes the principle of innocent until proven guilty and in classic New Labour fashion creates a third way, neither innocent or guilty but innocentish.
Then there is the very simple issue of privacy, something consecutive Labour home secretaries simply don’t understand. Why should the police have DNA information that could relate to a person’ s paternity or genetic prevalence to certain illness when the individuals concerned may well not hold that information themselves?
Most galling of all, though, is that Smith’s proposal still clings to the notion of creating a compulsory national DNA database by stealth. Instead of openly arguing and campaigning for this, Smith seeks to build one incrementally, slyly and on the quiet.
May this disgusting woman be taken to court again and lose again.