• The DNA Database: Should we all be on it ?


    DNABritain has built the world’s biggest DNA database without proper political debate and police routinely arrest people just to get their DNA profiles onto the system, the genetics watchdog said in a report on Tuesday.

    The Human Genetics Commission has issued a report upon the practise of taking, storing and using DNA samples by the police forces in the U.K. The commission which advises British governments on the social, legal and ethical aspects of genetics said that three-quarters of young black men aged between 18 and 35 have their DNA on the database. The database was set up in 1995 and contains the DNA profiles of five million of us, or 8% of the U.K.’s population, making it the world’s biggest in proportion to population size. The commission’s report quoted an unidentified retired senior police officer as saying that “it is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything” in order to obtain a DNA sample.

    The Human Genetics Commission’s chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery stated:

    “….Parliament has never formally debated the establishment of the National DNA Database and safeguards around it….” AND “…..it has developed through amendments to laws designed to regulate the taking of fingerprints and physical evidence before DNA profiling was developed….” AND “….it is not clear how far holding DNA profiles on a central database improves police investigations….”

    The Home Office is on record as stating that the database was a “vital crime-fighting tool”.

    Clearly this is an area of public policy that HAS to be addressed by Parliament.

    Of course, until that blessed day when lawful government is restored to this United Kingdom arrives, we have the ever present bête noire that is the never to be sufficiently damned abomination that is the European Union to contend with. But, Hey Ho!

    The British Gazette contends that there are two principled positions to take on this issue:

    1. That the only DNA samples to be permanently recorded upon the DNA database are from those convicted by a court of a recordable offence, and that the DNA samples of all other persons be destroyed.

    This would of course lead to the vast majority of DNA records on the present U.K. database being destroyed. Clearly, police forces across the U.K. would say that this would be a very great hindrance to their ability to detect and convict offenders.

    2. (a.) That all persons permanently resident in the United Kingdom have their DNA placed upon the database, and that the costs of this be borne no by the individual but as the nation as a whole (the taxpayer).
    2. (b.) That it would be a requirement for all persons temporarily resident in the U.K. for more that a certain period (to be decided by Parliament) be held on a temporary register and that the costs of the taking of the DNA sample and its storage be borne by that person and not the taxpayer.

    This of course will spark a healthy debate among the people. Clearly, there will be many who will argue strongly and vociferously against position 2 on the basis of extension of the power of the state. However there will be many people who would describe themselves as ordinary law abiding citizens who would state openly that they have no objection to the police obtaining a DNA sample from them on the blanket basis of position 2 as they have not committed a criminal offence and do not intend ever to do so. They may also go on to add that they could well understand the position of those who have committed criminal offences in the past and intend to continue so doing in future as such a blanket database will make it easier for the police to discover what they are doing and bring them before the courts.

    Sadly, many lives have been touched by crime. How many readers of this article have NOT been affected at some time by crime – however minor ?

    This is a debate that people should get involved in because it affects us all.

    Since we would all be directly affected by the adoption of position 2, should there be a referendum on the issue ?