More than just the usual suspects

A bill presented by Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott has had its first reading in the House of Commons.
Ms Willott wants information about innocent people removed from the Government’s ever-growing DNA database.

Unfortunately, I’m told by people who understand these things, the bill has no chance of becoming law.

At the moment one million people who have not being convicted of any crime have their names on the database. More than 100,000 of them are children.

“As well as the loss of civil liberties, all the evidence shows that continuing to take, analyse and store innocent people’s DNA has not improved crime detection rates,” said the Lib Dem MP. “In fact the cost of doing so means fewer resources for frontline policing.

“Our criminal justice system was built on the principle of innocent until proven guilty. We need to bring that principle back by allowing innocent people to get their DNA removed from the database.”

Last October, Preseli Pembrokeshire Tory Stephen Crabb raised the case of 75-year-old Geoffrey Orchard.

Mr Orchard had been wrongfully arrested and had received a written apology from the police – but he couldn’t get his DNA removed from the database.

Mr Crabb tackled Meg Hillier, of the Home Office.

“Does she really understand the enormous extent to which good will and support for the police and for her department are being undermined by a system in which DNA information is being recorded aggressively, but removed in a haphazard way and on a discretionary basis, dependent on police force area?” he asked in Parliament.

He added recently: “I have never questioned the usefulness of this tool for the police, but have grown increasingly concerned at the energetic way in which DNA profiles are collected, even from completely innocent parties with no connection to a crime scene.”

In Wales, the use of DNA technology in eventually solving the murder of Lynette White, killed in Cardiff in 1988, is often highlighted in support of the database.

But it’s worth noting that Lynette’s horrific murder was not solved because an innocent person’s DNA was held.
During that
re-investigation officers and forensic scientists made a partial match of DNA found at the murder scene with that of a teenager from whom a sample had been taken following arrest.
The match meant the teenager – not even born when Lynette was killed – had to be related to the killer.

Mrs Hillier told Stephen Crabb last year: “It is worth stressing that a person’s DNA being on the database does not suggest guilt.”

Worth stressing also that we are citizens, or subjects even, but not suspects.

:: Big Issue Cymru, June 30 – July 4, 2008
:: Update of ‘Protecting Our DNA’

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