All Innocent People Should Be Removed from the Police DNA Database
DNA fingerprinting, identifying an individual by taking a sample of their DNA, is twenty-five years old this week. While many different applications have been found for the technique, by far the most controversial is the construction of the Police DNA database.
The man responsible for pioneering the method, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, has therefore decided to commemorate the anniversary of his greatest breakthrough by calling for all subjects of police investigations subsequently proven to be innocent to be removed from the DNA database.
Furthermore, the European Court of Justice ruled in December 2008 that keeping innocent people on the database was a breach of their human rights. So, should the police now be forced by the UK government to remove them?
DNA database might not be secure
- In 2006 it was revealed that a private firm was keeping genetic samples and personal information from some people who are on the database. This company was used by the police to analyse the samples obtained by the police when they arrested someone. The company also failed to destroy this afterwards, the firm has kept copies, together with highly personal demographic details of the individuals including their names, ages, skin colour and addresses. [[Antony Barnett, Police DNA database 'is spiralling out of control', The Observer, 16th July 2006, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/jul/16/ukcrime.immigrationpolicy%5D%5D With such a large database that can be accessed by many people and is create by outside firms it is bound not to be 100% secure. As the police are the custodian of these personal details they should not be keeping the details of innocent people on a system that can’t be completely guaranteed.
- DNA fingerprinting is essential to bringing criminals, who would otherwise go free, to justice and to proving the innocence of those wrongly suspected. Without it, the Suffolk serial killer, Steve Wright, and Mark Dixie, who was convicted of murdering model Sally Anne Bowman using a DNA sample taken following a bar-room brawl, would have walked free.
The Home Office gave permission for a genetic study to see if DNA can help predict a suspect’s ethnic background or skin colour. 'Britain's DNA database is spiralling out of control,' said Dr Helen Wallace, deputy director of GeneWatch. 'Thousands of innocent people, including children and victims of crime, are taking part in controversial genetic research without their knowledge or consent.' The Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone is concerned that the Home Office is allowing the database to be used for research that aims to try to build a 'genetic Photofit' from DNA samples found at a crime scene. She said: 'Anything that links black and ethnic genetic groups to criminality is potentially dangerous. How long before scientists start looking for a criminal gene?'[[Antony Barnett, Police DNA database 'is spiralling out of control', The Observer, 16th July 2006, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/jul/16/ukcrime.immigrationpolicy%5D%5D Although no one’s DNA should be part of this kind of study this is particularly true for people who have been found to be innocent. There is already a problem with the police picking people up on the basis of their ethnic profiles if innocent people who are arrested and not charged or found innocent are included this can only skew any results and make such problems worse. This is shown by there being one in four black children aged between 10-17 with their profiles on the police DNA database, most of which are kept when they become adults.[[Jamie Doward, 'Racist bias' blamed for disparity in police DNA database, The Guardian, 9th August 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/09/police-dna-database-black-children%5D%5D
DNA is a vital crime-fighting tool
DNA fingerprinting is essential to bringing criminals, who would otherwise go free, to justice and to proving the innocence of those wrongly suspected. Without it, the Suffolk serial killer, Steve Wright, and Mark Dixie, who was convicted of murdering model Sally Anne Bowman using a DNA sample taken following a bar-room brawl, would have walked free.
DNA is not as reliable as people think, with it often giving rise to false positives. Ask any forensic expert working in criminal defence. Putting more people on increases the chances of a false positive, not to mention that any evidence given in court would have to mention the prior database entry, and therefore arrest, prejudicing the jury.
How do we define ‘innocent people’
What indeed is an innocent person? The obvious response would be someone who has not done anything wrong. Then the question is: what human being has never done anything wrong? Then the definition of ‘innocent person’ could be reformulated as someone who has not broken the law. But once again, who has never broken the law? This may have some people thinking ‘I have never broken the law’ but the reality is, most of us have broken the law with or without knowing it. By not paying to board public transport, you are breaking the law. By uploading a CD to a computer you are breaking the law. Being paid cash in hand is against the law. Dropping litter in most places is against the law. So many laws that we would break, how can any of us be called innocent by these standards? To avoid having to distinguish such matters, we should all be on the DNA database.
No one is completly innocent just as no law in every circumstance is completley just. We are not governed by a direct line from God, it is from other men and women, completely falible in themselves. To argue that we should be all on the system because of minor indiscrepencies and so -by virtue- could be held accountable for them whould make life so finikity and unliveble we would all have to pass the Bar inorder to stay out of trouble.
In a society where values differ so much and circumstance can not even begin to factor above a rudimentry level in the creation of laws, i find it too much to ask that such a mass of people must submit so fully on the basis of such minor infractions when they have so little choice into the creation of laws themselves.
Murder and brutality are easily agreed on allowing yourself to determine the food on the table against the laws of the land (why most people take cash in hand) is not enough to brand someone guilty in many eyes and certainly not enough for any flawed yet elevated human beings to determine my where-abouts on a whim (the argument opposite surposing that laws will be broken and no-one is above breaking them). It has gone too far with cctv already.
What do you think?