One of the UK's top judges has thrown a grenade into the smouldering debate around the national DNA database, saying that everyone in the UK - including visitors from overseas - should be on file. Lord Justice Sedley, a senior appeals court beak, said the current situation was "indefensible." At the moment the database …
you could get police officers out on the streets PREVENTING crime as opposed to running a database query to solve it later....
Worryingly this is a top judge
It is quite worrisome that someone can reach such dizzy heights as to be a top appeal judge in England, and yet apparently not have a clue about what it means to be British.
ah well, looks like its time to emmigrate
What position did this guy hold in the SS?
Nothing to hide
I've nothing to hide, I think it's a good thing to have everyone on file, I imagine that this could impact crime levels massively.
I agree though, our poor performing government couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery, never mind the co-ordination of something on this scale. It will never happen, but I like the idea.
Why do they want this? The police dont get acess to Voters records, Council Tax or any of the other infomation on people thats not relavent to an ongoing case, so why this?
The only logical thing to do is to treat it just like other personal infomation they get when dealing with crime. I dont know what it is, but you can be sure they dont know where everyone in the UK even lives.
Presumption of what...?
Has this Senior Judge never heard of the principle of "Presumed Innocent Unless Proven Guilty"?
He seems to want to treat *everyone* as a suspect which means that if your DNA is somehow found at a crime scene (eg a criminal plants a hanky they've stolen from you) then you will have to *prove* that you weren't there and, if you can't, that's as good as a conviction.
We already have a Government that wants to monitor our every move and make us have ID Cards and put us all on a National Identity Database, now we have the Judges and the Police saying that having everyone's DNA would make their job easier.
I'm sure the Stasi and the KGB would have said exactly the same thing...
Next time a police employee wants to go out and commit mass murder he can not only know how to remove his own forensic evidence from the scene, he also has access to everyone's DNA and can therefore frame someone else into the bargain. Brilliant!
Reference to Ipswich for the serial-killing copper of course.
It *is* a deterrent!
"you could get police officers out on the streets PREVENTING crime as opposed to running a database query to solve it later...."
Setting up a system which means that chances are you'll get caught of any kind of crime, no matter how many balaclavas you wear *is* going to deter a lot of people from those crimes.
I have to agree with this... The only people who have anything to worry about this are someone with something to hide. I have nothing to hide; it wouldn't bother me that my DNA is on a national computer.
The database would never include everyone - it would only include the 99% of the population who cause no trouble - but would probably not include those who do not have addresses (they do have addresses, but have not registered for anything e.g. Car Tax so as far as the givernment is concern they would not show up) - I suspect also the super rich and top of the estalishment would not be included though this would never be admitted.
Do you like men or women?
How much do you earn?
Do you have any kids?
Where do they go to school?
What's your NI number?
What credit cards do you have?
Anyone who says they have nothing to hide is an idiot.
'Nothing to hide'
I love it when people crawl out of the wood work with this line. If you want to surrender your DNA, go ahead, but whilst I'm a law abiding subject, I'll resist any attempt to harvest my identity.
We'll see how you feel about having 'nothing to hide' when you're implicated in a serious crime because some data entry monkey misspelt your name when they fed you into the grinder.
Professor Stephen Bain makes a good point, "The DNA genie can't be put back in the bottle." However, I fear this genie may have already escaped its bottle...
Re: Nothing to hide
Some interesting reading for the 'nothing to hide' brigade, and for anybody else who finds it tricky to counter such arguments:
Nothing to hide either
But I'll never agree to having my DNA extracted and recorded on a DB.
A) I don't trust them not to cock it up - and then I find myself in a completely indefensible position of having 'my' DNA found at a crime scene, hauled down the cop shop and accused of being a serial killer.
B) It's *my* dna - not yours, not the police's, not the govenment's etc.
C) It won't impact crime levels at all. Crime has bever diminished related to the likelihood of being caught - ciminals merely alter their behaviour accordingly.
Only a senior judge ("What exactly is a 'web site'?") could think this idea was even a starter. Even ignoring the inherent implausibility of a government-sponsored large-scale computer system being successfully implemented, the logistical difficulties of taking DNA samples from 60 million people (plus many millions of foreign visitors every year) and matching their identities unambiguously should be obvious.
As for his comment that "Disproportionate numbers of ethnic minorities get onto the database" - since the main way of getting onto the database is by being arrested, this would suggest that a disporportionate number of ethnic minorities get arrested, something that should not come as a great surprise to anyone living in the real world (I make no comment on the justice or otherwise of this state of affairs). For the same reason, I would strongly suspect that a lot more than 50% of those already on the database are male.
DNA and fingerprints
Neither fingerprints nor dna are as good as you might guess from watching
programs like CSI.
With fingerprints, despite being used for over 100 years, there has
never been a large scale research project that demonstrates that they are
actually unique. While there are only 2 or 3 million sets of prints held by
the police the chances of a false match are low. If the database held 60
million or more sets of prints, false matches would be far more frequent and
all would have to be examined and eliminated before trial.
The same is true to a lesser extent for DNA. The database doesn't contain
the full DNA of a person, just a small number of representitive markers.
Bad processing of a sample might shift the markers and identify the wrong
person. The more samples in the database the better the chance of a false
"..it seems safe to say this proposal isn't actually achievable. Not at any kind of reasonable cost, anyway."
Since when has unreasonable cost been a reason for our government not to go ahead with some massive (and often doomed) project?
They just make-up a "reasonable" (ie. pure fantasy) figure to get the project accepted then open the floodgates of taxpayer's money and let it pour into their contractor buddies pockets while protecting the perpetrators of this utter fraud behind "commercial confidentiality".
Allowing private companies involvement in public sector projects is like putting a necrophiliac in charge of the mortuary.
What it means to be British...
If by "what it means to be British" you mean "free from having your flesh and blood tracked by a police state, then His Honour's point is that a disproportionate number of chaps from ethnic minorities are currently not treated in the British way. Still, nothing new there. I bet there's a considerable bias in favour of blokes too.
Of course, the sticking point here is that the government would be the one running the scheme. The scheme itself (collect samples, store, allow only properly authenticated police queries) is large but technically trivial. That means the government is probably the only institution in the UK that couldn't manage it.
A pity really, since a *universal* and *secure* DNA database would probably be to crime prevention in the 21st century what sewage disposal was for public health in the 19th.
Thank God for that border
At least the Scottish Government have ruled this one out toot sweet.
I get pulled over for a breath test (despite them not being allowed to do randonm ones), blow into the bag, the straw gets kept and my DNA is on Big Brothers database.
Can someone please explain when we substituted a democracy for a totalitarian state? It's like a death by a thousand cuts, and crap like this makes me seriously consider emigrating.
I fancy putting a 24-hour webcam in Peter Davies' living room. if he has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear.
Hey Peter, If you've nothing to hide....
Why not throw your current salary and maybe a bit about your sexual preferences on the comments, I'm sure you have got nothing to hide, and certainly nothing illegal going on, but given those facts surely that's no one elses business.
I don't quite understand how it will effect crime levels, as was previously pointed out, it may well help with detection rates in crimes where a DNA sample is left at the scene, but I would much rather not be sexually assaulted to start with, than be and the perp nicked.
I take it our presumption of innoscence is just going to be brushed under the carpet?
Nothing to hide?
So, you wouldn't mind being a suspect in a murder investigation just because your DNA was found at the scene of the crime? You do realise that even just being a suspect will ruin your life, make you practically unemployable and will follow you around regardless of your actual guilt, yes?
With a national DNA database, every discarded cigarette or gum, every inadvertent sneeze or expectoration increases your likelihood of being suspected of some crime or another. If you've got dandruff, you're probably screwed.
Add to this that the DNA analysis systems are even less accurate (many false positives) than fingerprint recognition systems (which are, frankly, often useless), and you're asking to be shoved in the slammer by a PC Plod who can't be arsed to do some real investigation, but has enough 'the computer says so' evidence to convince the ignorant, unwashed proles that make up our juries.
I would love to have your faith in the system, but having actually been in a position to watch it work, I simply can't. The only way our justice system could be any less interested in justice is if we renamed it the 'Star Service,' and the courts were called 'Star Chambers.'
He's right, it's all or nothing
You have a crime scene.10 DNA samples are identified, 5 are on file. Those 5 are investigated and a case built against the most likely suspect.
Since DNA is the easiest pre-filtering technique, being on the DNA database will increase your chance of being arrested wrongly. Since the investigation will be easiest to build against someone who is on the DNA database, and that automatically excludes people who aren't, which are just a likely to have committed the crime if you're just randomly taking DNA samples.
When it was only fingerprints, and fingerprints were only allowed to be taken from criminals, that wasn't so bad. Sure you could filter by fingerprints, but then you were really filtering by *known* criminals. The people not matched were *not* known criminals and so less likely to have committed the crime.
So I'm happy that Peter Davis wants his DNA on file, but unhappy that he wants *my* DNA on file. If both of us leave DNA traces at a place that becomes a crime scene, no case will be constructed against me. He on the other hand, may also have done nothing wrong, but in a confrontational system, it's not whose most guilty, it's who a plausible case can be made against.
So all or nothing is the only way forward. I vote for nothing. I don't trust any government not to expand the use of it given their history of expanding the user of everything. I think we didn't vote for ID cards, I don't see how we would vote for DNA samples, and is the UK a democracy or is Blair still Fuerer?
I love the "I have nothing to hide" argument
It is the view that we will never have a government that would use it for clandestine purposes, or to prosecute people for something that they will end up defining as illegal in the future. What faith they have in human kind. I admire that in a way because my bitter and cynical view is that future governments aside -
(oh and the democratic argument? You really think that the people are listened to? Really? You think the government asked permission before it started meddling in schools and NHS to the degree they do? They listen to the media reports of what the media report people say, not what is actually said by constituents)
- they couldn't even keep the THIRD PARTY organisations that ran the national criminal database thingy from being abused by staff.
How many people reading this article actually trust the Government to be able to deliver what is promised?
I particularly enjoyed...
I particularly enjoyed his comment about it not being fair that the database only contains criminals and people who have been picked up by the fuzz for one reason or another...
So it's fair that I haven't done anything and yet should be included in a criminal database? As long as we rename it "The Database of Criminals and People We're Stitching Up" that should be OK?
DOES NOT COMPUTE
this country gets more absurd every year.
Loads of prons and cons with this one
If I have to have a biometric on file and this is the way society is going I'd rather have one that works. From this perspective DNA is the biometric of all biometrics. It is practically impossible to fake.
At the same time having everyone's DNA profie on file is a Pandora's box which will be very difficult to close once it has been opened. The scariest example of a potential threat from having everyone's DNA filed, are the possibilities to have a contract "accident" for the purposes of obtaining a perfect transplant donor. Genetic profiling by employees, insurance agencies, banks, etc comes as a close second. It will not take long for us to live under the control of GATTACA corporation.
Though if I have to chose between 1984 which is clearly the current UK government vision and GATTACA I am not really sure what I am going to chose. Dunno...
re: Nothing to hide
The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either - Benjamin Franklin.
Now I have a chance to prove I am who I say I am
Why is the right to conclusively prove I am who I say I am (or as conclusively as possible at the moment) an erosion of civil liberty?
Surely it's the people who want to take that right away from me who are eroding my civil liberty.
Knock themselves out...
I'm fine with it. I have nothing to hide, and my data is already one there anyway.
What worries me is that it will be sold to life insurance companies one day and that'll make it harder for people with genetic tendancies toward (for example) heart disease to get life insurance, or maybe even to get a job. Once the job has farmed out to a private company who knows that will happen to the data?
Re Nothing to hide
I hope that Peter Davies doesn't have a close relative who is a career criminal, because there's a statistically non-negligible chance that his DNA "fingerprint" is a close match to that of his father/brother/cousin as far as the police are concerned.
And don't even get me started on the fact that DNA amplification techniques are so sensitive that they could pick up the DNA of any number of innocent people who just happened to have been in the vicinity of a crime scene. We all shed copious samples of our DNA everywhere we go.
Combine that with the eagerness of the police to arrest someone -- anyone -- to boost their performance figures, and the monumental ingorance of the legal profession when it comes to the subtleties of science and statistics, and you have the recipe for an entirely new class of miscarriages of justice based on the "infallibility" of DNA evidence.
Hell, handcart etc...
I just can't understand why this idiot is a judge. Lord Justice F'wit presiding.
So you are now guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. The DNA records say you did it, now prove you didn't. Goodbye to that old outdated concept of innocent until proven guilty. All those people who say 'I've got nothing to hide, put me on it' are fools. When the late night knock at the door comes because someone didn't get an SQL statement right what will you say?
Anyway, the gov couldn't run this database correctly. Just how soon would it be out of date? Place your bets on lots of false positives and lots of criminals missed. 'I couldn't have done that murder, the database says it's not my DNA. What gun? Nah, that's just a fag lighter, honest'.
So, there are more ethnic minorities on file. Tackle the problem not the symptoms.
Remove everyone from the current database if they are not convicted.
Sorry for the rant but I'm quite cross.
Put simply, the more DNA fingerprints on file, the more likely there are to be duplicates.
You'd be very unhappy to be found guilty purely on the basis of a DNA fingerprint match, with no proof that you were in the area at the time. DNA fingerprint matching, just like normal fingerprint matching, is not infallible if you massively widen the scope for matches.
think you're ok because "you've got nothing to hide"? think again..
..anyone who believes that because they think they've got nothing to hide needs a very cold bucket of water throwing in their faces. My example will demonstrate why..
Student has a minor run as a teen with Police whilst on a night out 9underage drinking at 17, hardly a major crime) Never been arrested before, doesn't know the ropes, gets conned by coppers into providing DNA sample, no further action taken. Couple of years later, same student writes out some Christmas cards, posts them at nearby postbox which gets robbed by some scrote later that night. Coppers find the postbag dumped some days later, DNA check the post, find the students DNA on the gum, arrest him for stealing post - BECAUSE he's the only one they can identify! Charged, prosecuted, and worries for months because he's being fitted up.
Naturally it got thrown out in court by the judge as a case which should never have come to court, but not after months of fretting and stress and big legal bills that his folks had to cough up for. I could cite many many other examples but that's a simple one which demonstrates *exactly* why the Police should not be allowed to complusorily DNA sample everyone. They are too stupid and malicious to be trusted to use a DNA database properly and the CPS are too slavishly in thrall to DNA evidence, believing that it's infallible when actually it's very far from infallible.
"I've got nothing to hide" yeh right, wake up and smell the coffee, chum. Especially when the ID Card scheme makes everyone a criminal, and the cops want to take DNA samples from driving offences like speeding or going through a bus lane or parking on a double yellow line? Still why should I care what happens to dolts like you? Me and my Mrs are buggering off out of Police state UK in a few of years and we're never coming back.
Looks like he knows bugger all about DNA testing
As it's quite likely that this sort of database would end up having people totally innocent being arrested and maybe convicted because their DNA matches - it's not the unique or at least the results from testing are not. Every matchup would produce 1 match for every 7000 comparisons.. how many people will that bring up with a national (and visitors too) that then need to be checked? I know profiling is bad, but you have to admit that someone previously convicted is much more likely to commit another crime.
@ Peter Davies
I think what you meant to say was "I have nothing to hide YET..."
Just for the record could you give me some actual figures on how many crimes would be instantly solved by having everyones DNA on file? Forgive me for not wanting to buy into an idea like this because you imagine it might work.
The cost alone is insane before you even think about the rights issues.
Not everyone ...
Bet this policy wouldn't have pleased Bill Clinton if it had been in place on his visit - didn't his minders famously 'collect' a pub beer glass he drank from to prevent anyone getting his fingerprints or DNA ?
Also bet Stella Rimington's colleagues wouldn't feature on the DB either, neither would Philip Green (et al) or any HRH .
re: Nothing to hide
We don't want our DNA to end up with the insurance companies. I sure don't trust the government agencies with my DNA.
I doubt this will have any lasting effect on crime. Criminals will adept to the new threat and possibly become even more violent. It's already a common practice for bank robbers and others to burn escape vehicles to cover their tracks.
As a start...
Tell the judge that as a start the DNA information is going to be taken from all the top beaks and let's hear the outcry that will start.
RE: Nothing to hide
Neither do I, but its a matter of principal. As a white middle class male I would get no hassle from the BNP, but I still woulden't want them in government.
"Disproportionate numbers of ethnic minorities get onto the database ..."
I wonder why nobody ever seems to interpret this as a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minorities committing crimes, rather than the usual stance of the police unfairly targeting ethnic minorities.
Guilty until proven innocent
Even assuming the database is properly administered and secure (unlikely) there are other severe issues.
A crime is committed. There are (say) 4 suspects on the basis of non-DNA evidence. DNA is found and all 4 suspects are tested. One proves positive with a match probability of 1 in a million, so he is charged and the other 3 cleared. This is acceptable use of DNA, but it doesn't require a database.
Now suppose the situation where everyone is on the database. Police don't bother collecting other evidence, they do straight for the DNA. They search the 60 million entry database and pull up 60 matches (at 1-in-a-million match probability) They then pull in all 60 'suspects' and then it's for the 'suspects' (59 innocent people and 1 criminal) to prove to the police that they are innocent. If they can't prove it they go down for a stretch.
This is the police's preferred approach, but it is not acceptable.
The wrong way around...
Supposedly criminals are supposed to be found using traditional techniques and finger prints and DNA are used to re-inforce the evidence. This reverses this concept and is basically lazy.
Why bother to put in some hard graft when you can just get a computer to come up with a suspect. Then all you need to do is to fit them up with a motive and lock them up and the job's a good-un.
I remember seeing a discussion of DNA testing and one of the scientists involved pointed out that a database containing the whole population of the UK wouldn't work because you would get about 5 or 6 false positives for every sample. You need to limit the data base to likely individuals for it to work.
In the end this is a comment from a judge who probably did some arts fag subject at Oxford and is a technical numpty. Unfortunately most of the government is made of similar individuals. The only silver lining is that this would be a British IT initiative and therefore doomed to failure.
Ten quid says this judge is about to publish a book
Do they seriously expect to take DNA from visitors to the UK? What will this do to the tourism industry? Just picture the queues at Heathrow, and the indignation of foreigners being treated like criminals.
And how will they get DNA samples from residents? Are they going to round us all up and stick swabs in our mouths?
It's interesting to hear just how many people would blindly accept this, but the whole debate about whether it violates our rights is irrelevant because the idea (at least in its present form) is simply unworkable.
It's all about false positives
If you add everyone in the country to the database there is only one possible outcome. It will become completely unusable. The reason for this is that what is stored is not a 100% map of your dna, but rather your dna profile. Already when chasing up leads using the dna database the police do not get a single result back, but many results and these individual results then have to be analysed, matched and investigated. Add the entire population plus visitors and the chances of false positive matches goes up dramatically which will result in thousands, if not tens of thousands, of false positives for every single search. In effect the more data you add the more noise you create until the noise washes out the data you're searching for.
nothing to hide bashing
I think all the nothing to hide bashers are missing the point.
If by having everyones DNA on record it meant that serial killers, peadophiles, rapists & terrorists could be named and therefore prosecuted and locked up (and specially for those very liberal popeye types *why not castrate them while we've got em?) isn't it worth having everyones DNA on record? We're not talking about a complete George Orwell society, just having a name/NI number against a string of DNA?
Isn't one life saved worth more than your principals on DNA sharing?
I don't know the statistics of estimated crimes solved, but I'm damn sure the police don't solve all the serious crimes committed.
Remember this is all hypothetical, I believe that it would deter people, but even if it didn't, I'm in favour of it, if it helps catching criminals quickly once a crime has been committed.
This was never touted as a be all and end all to crime, I'd love to see police back on the beat instead of catching speeding drivers, but in the current situation/policies this isn't going to change quickly.
Its a good idea but
While in theory its sounds like a good idea; sample everyone and then we always know who has been where, whenever someone leaves DNA. But there are a few minor problems in reality which will never allow a system like this to work:
1) the Government is totally incapable of running large scale IT projects without c**king them up.
2) this could be HUGELY misused, from everyone from criminals to the insurance industry (legally sanctioned criminals), banks (biggest crooks) and anyone else who would like to screw you over. Imagine never being able to buy insurance because you are a 'genetic risk'
3) eugenics - controlled population births. The government could in theory decide who marries who for genetic consistency?
4) false evidence - someone could easily steal or 'borrow' your DNA from a cup, fag butt, etc. and then plant it at a scene and you could be inadvertantly placed at a crime scene.
5) cost - the cost of maintaining a system of this size would be immense, they might be able to add it to peoples National Insurance information, but i doubt it without some seriously expensive upgrades.
I'm sure there are many more, but thats all i can think of right now. But as you can see, its far too risky. What the hell is wrong in society today? i thought once you have paid for the crime (providing its something minor) you are forgiven...
Reading all your comments make me ill...
While I cannot personally come down on either side of this fence I have some points to make...
I completely agree that a National database of DNA would NOT act as a deterrent for crime as I will explain later, but it would however allow the police to solve any and probably all violent crimes where DNA has been recovered, and when you see the news and hear about the severe inflation of gun and violent crime, armed robberies, and serious sex offences this for me can only be a good thing...
A DNA database wouldnt deter crime on any level whatsoever as unfortunantly the bleeding hearts liberals and hand wringers who have spent the last god knows how many years taking away our rights to punish our children as we see fit, our right to defend our homes against invaders (remember the farmer who shot that burgular?) have essentially created the cultrue of yobbishness we see now, with kids who have no respect for parents or teachers, people with no respect for those people who take to the streets to uphold the law, and I can even remember a piece in my local paper not so long ago about firemen who refused to go to a housing estate in my town without police protection because they feared for their lives, after suffering attacks not just from 'hoodies' but from adults as well...
Besides... I agree with a previous comment... it wouldnt happen cos the government and politicians of this country couldnt organise a decent knees up in a brewery....
And if you feel outraged or offended by what I say... -shrugs- what can I do?
No problem to me! Why? 'Cos there's not snowballs chance this will happen in my lifetime!
It may get as far as planning then the some government prat will call in his mate from the board of directors of some class act like EDS and it's the air-traffic/ambulance/NHS cock-up all over again!
Like many in IT, I've worked in government IT projects, they all start with wonderful ideas, then someone asshat decides to try to get it off the drawing board and make it work. It then gets passed through so many channels and beaten up so badly that it comes out a former shell of itself, that not even the combined resources of Mr Gates, Mr Ellison, Mr Jobs and Mr Nealy could get it off the ground!
nothing to hide
nothing yet, nothing yet.
Logically it makes perfect sense to have everyone on a register so you're easy to track down and detain if your dna is found at the scene of a crime. But is it the kind of justice we want to support, crime not happening becouse everyone is on a database, everyone behaving becouse of being placed in an orderly system, numbered, registered and tracked.
Finding out what people were at a meeting organised for an anti government protest would be easy, turn up, sift the place for DNA and bingo, you have a list of names, cross referenece to the national ID register and you know where they all live, now just set the CCTV surveillance network to watch them 24/7 and you can ensure compliance.
It all makes perfect sense when it starts. We blindly wonder into hell happily handing over our souls on promises of utopia until one day we realise we're in a cage. Pehaps not literally but metaphorically, watched, studied, manipulated. Complaint and subserviant to the "government" to "society"
It is logical to give people drugs so that they are always happy and don't want to commit crimes, but is it right? It is logical to crush decent beneath your black steal toed boots to ensure a safe, orderly society, it makes sense, it's the only way to make sure that the "innocent citizens" are kept safe, the ever few ever dwindling "innocent citizens." It's the only way to keep people safe from themselves, the only way. List them, index them, watch them, teach them, in the end they'll learn that they should comply. It is in their interests to comply, it is the will of society.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions"
I'm quite sure that when the Germans supported Hitler they weren't expecting it would end up in the genocide of Jews. But in the begining it all made sense, order, work, safety, certainty, security, and it kept making sense until they finally stood back and saw the hell they had created.
I'm sure when Pol Pot rose to power or Lenin, that neither nation realised the realities they were brining to life.
It's easy to give away your freedom and your identity when promised with safety and security. It's easy to give way to logic. It's easy to say "I have nothing to hide".
I'm already on the DNA register (drunk and incapable on a public highway - I was asleep in a bush) and I'm quite sure I'll be on it forever.
However I think we're daydreaming into a police state. Quite blissful in our ignorance and happy in their promises.
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