Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Curse of the DNA Register

The front page of the Independent today headlines the report of the Human Genetics Commission which points out that the National DNA database is out of control.

"The police National DNA Database should be placed under the control of an independent statutory authority. And there should be a vigorous nationwide information campaign to explain why DNA samples are taken, how they are used and why they are retained.

These are two of the key recommendations in a report published today (Wednesday) from an independent Citizens’ Inquiry instigated by the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) in collaboration with the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum in Edinburgh and the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre (PEALS) in Durham and Newcastle...

The Citizens’ report concludes that there is a need for the National DNA Database to be put on an independent statutory footing at one remove from Government and the Police. Most participants, although not all, felt that it would not be practical or desirable to have the whole population registered on the database, however.

Other majority recommendations included:

* People who are acquitted should have their names removed from the database.
* People providing DNA samples at police stations should have a clear explanation of why this is being done and what it means for them.
* There should be special arrangements for situations where DNA samples have to be taken by force.
* People providing samples should not have their ethnicity recorded.

The release of the Citizens’ Inquiry’s conclusions marks the beginning of a new phase of information gathering and broader consultation for the HGC, which will all contribute to the development of a final report, to be published in early 2009."

The Independent says:

"A generation of young Britons is being criminalised for life by the relentless expansion of the national DNA database, ministers are warned today.

Alarm and hostility over the massive scale of the collection of DNA has been uncovered by groundbreaking research funded by the Home Office among panels of members of the public.

The Human Genetics Commission found there was widespread mistrust among people presented with evidence of the size of the database, which now contains the genetic records of more than four million people. It called for the database to be taken out of the control of the Home Office and police altogether, with one panel member warning that the database was a "first step towards a totalitarian state".

Britain now has by far the largest DNA database in the world. It includes an estimated one million people who have never been found guilty of any offence, some 100,000 of whom are children.

About 40 per cent of young black men have been forced to provide samples, compared with 13 per cent of Asian men and 9 per cent of white men.

Genetic material is now taken from all people arrested by police, regardless of whether they are subsequently charged or convicted, and remains on file for life."

Remember also that GeneWatch UK recently published a report demonstrating that ministers' repeated claims about the value of the DNA database in crime detection are false and most likely deliberately misleading; and despite all the claims about how useful it is for murder investigations, for example, that:

"the Government has provided no examples of murders that have been solved as a result of retaining the DNA of innocent people beyond the period necessary to investigate whether they have committed a past offence"

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