Monday, 23 November 2009

The One That Got A Reply. . .

A short while ago I blogged about an email I had sent my MP about the retention of DNA belonging to the innocent on yet another database. I promised at the time I would report on any reply I received.

Here is that reply in full;

Dear Wolfers,

Thank you for your email of 11th November about the retention of the DNA of innocent people. I share your concerns on this issue and agree with much of what you say. I acknowledge that DNA evidence can play a vital role in modern criminal investigations, but the current system is in urgent need of reform.

My colleagues and I are very concerned about the growth of the DNA Database. There are now 5.9 million DNA profiles on the National Database, making it the largest in the world. The Government has previously admitted that around one million profiles were those of innocent people who had not been not convicted (sic), cautioned, formally warned or reprimanded.

In December 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that two British men should not have had their DNA retained by police, as neither was convicted of any offence. The principle upheld by the judgement - that innocent people should not be on the DNA database indefinitely - should have been respected, yet the Government continues to merely adjust the length of time that DNA can be retained.

The Home Secretary recently announced plans to retain the DNA profiles of 16 or 17-year-olds arrested for a serious, violent or sexual crime for six years, even if they are not convicted. In addition to this, the DNA of adults who are not convicted would be retained for six years. When this legislation comes before the Houses of Parliament, my Party will argue that the Government has completely missed the point. People in Britain are innocent until proven guilty and the retention of DNA should reflect this fundamental principle.

Conservatives (sic) plans to adopt a system similar used to that in Scotland, where the DNA profiles of those not convicted of an offence would only be retained in circumstances where the charges related to a crime of violence or a sexual offence. In these circumstances, DNA profiles could be retained for a maximum period of five years, subject to a judicial oversight. This system meets the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights, has proved more effective than the larger database in England and Wales, and will restore the fundamental rights of the individuals.

I hope this is helpful.

(Illegible Scrawl) - Julian Brazier, T.D., M.P.

Most of the letter seems to be a template which is no doubt trotted out to anyone who writes on this subject, and predictably it trots out the same stats that I used or were very well aware of.

The rest of it? Well, it is re-assuring to see that on the face of it, the Tories are a little less obsessed with harvesting our data, but looking further there isn't a great deal of difference.

'DNA profiles of those not convicted of an offence would only be retained in circumstances where the charges related to a crime of violence or a sexual offence.'

So even if you bop someone on the nose in a pub scrap you'd be retained or if you were the subject of a proven unfounded rape/sexual assault/sexual harrassment claim, you'd be retained, unless a judge or magistrate had the foresight to demand your material's removal from the database. Supposing you don't get as far as court? What if the CPS refuse charge or the police decide you didn't do it? What then? Will they remove it as a matter of course? The implication is still that if you are accused, you are guilty of something.

An improvement, even if a slight one.

It's justice, Jim, but not as we know it.

No comments: