Wednesday, September 05, 2007

UK National DNA Database

A national debate is emerging on the discussion about UK National DNA Databases: Times reports:

"A senior judge has said the entire UK population and every visitor to the country should be on the national DNA database.

Lord Justice Sedley, one of the most experienced Appeal Court judges in England, said that an extended database would aid crime prevention and the current database was unfair and inconsistent.

He told BBC News: “Where we are at the moment is indefensible. We have a situation where if you happen to have been in the hands of the police, then your DNA is on permanent record. If you haven’t, it isn’t... that’s broadly the picture.”

Sir Stephen said disproportionate numbers of ethnic minorities get on to the database where there is ethnic profiling going on.

He added: “It also means that a great many people who are walking the streets, and whose DNA would show them guilty of crimes, go free”.

There are currently four million profiles held on the national DNA database.

Critics say those who commit certain offences should have their details removed after a set period.

The DNA database - which is 12 years old - grows by 30,000 samples a month taken from suspects or recovered from crime scenes. It is the largest in the world.

The data of everyone arrested for a recordable offence - all but the most minor offences - remains on the system regardless of their age, the seriousness of their alleged offence, and whether or not they were prosecuted.

It includes some 24,000 samples from young people between 10 and 17 years old, who were arrested but never convicted.

Sir Stephen said reducing the database would be a mistake. He knew of cases where a serious offender who had escaped conviction had ultimately been brought to justice by DNA evidence that may have been otherwise destroyed.

He said the only option was to expand the database to cover the whole population and all those who visit the UK.

There are four million DNA samples on the database

Professor Stephen Bain, a member of the national DNA database strategy board, warned expansion would be expensive and make mistakes more likely.

"The DNA genie can't be put back in the bottle," he said.

"If the information about you is exposed due to illegal or perhaps even legalised use of the
database, in a way that is not currently anticipated, then it's a very difficult situation."

Aside from the practicalities of a national DNA database, inevitably, there will be data protection/privacy/human rights implications on this. Irrespective of one's views on this (at this stage):

See also:

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