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back to article Petty crimes, 150,000 kids and a million new records

Have you ever used one of those machines at a fairground or on a seaside pier? You know, the ones that stretch a penny out, imprinting it with a touristy message and the date of your holiday? Well, get yourself down to the local nick and hand over your fingerprints and a DNA sample immediately, because defacing a coin is one of …

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Joke

So, what we need is...

To get someone who is 101 to pick some blue bells whilst attacking a badger with a coin. Lets see how the system holds up to that...

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the simple solution is...

give your date of birth as 18xx rather than 19xx, now if you'll excuse me I have some badgers that I simply must tinker with!

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Flame

Access to records

The thing is, any statement about the access to information must be viewed as subject to change. Whatever the purpose, whatever the safeguards, a policy decision about changed access to that information can be made later, and all the existing records are subject to that change.

I don't care what the "intention" is of a database, or the "safeguards" put in place around its access. I simply care that the information is being held in the first place. Will insurers have direct access to my medical records? I'm sure that's not the intention. Can it be guaranteed that insurers will never have such access? No.

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Thumb Up

Amen to that...

"The disturbing and illiberal policy of adding a child's most personal information to a massive government computer system, simply on the grounds of an accusation, must stop immediately."

Amen to that!

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Penny stretchers

It occurs to me that those who supply and maintain those devices are providing the facility to deface coins; arguably even inciting the defacement of those coins. I expect prosecutions aplenty...

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Anonymous Coward

Stop stressing

Stop stressing about this. The police are now above the law so there is nothing you can do about it.

Just accept there will soon be a secret database record all about you, linked to your medical and travel and tax details. Once that's done all will be fair again. There will be records on all of us.

Except the serious criminals, the immigrants, tourists and the terrorists, of course. And the police and lawyers and politicians. But since they are untouchable, it doesn't really matter.

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Attempted suicide

I seem to remember that a long time ago, a country had found the solution against attempted suicide.

Failed suicide was punishable.

Any "attemptee" was to be put to death by a professionnal executioner.

And I do think to remember this was one of Great Britain countries, but I wouldn't want to start a flamewar...

/IT angle ? ah, yes, database ...

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Happy

Could have been worse...

You should have heard what the badgers were demanding.

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Yeah, right...

> for example in the case of an unlawful arrest or sampling, or when it is "established beyond reasonable doubt that no offence existed".

Cobblers. What *is* it with this obsessional information collection - for all the use it will be, why not just come clean and record DNA & fingerprints at birth and stamp our foreheads with a barcode? What, that would likely cause a riot, you think? The only wonder is why that hasn't happened already.

Here's a good example which exposes the mind-numbing stupidity, deceit and paranoia behind this - http://gizmonaut.net/bits/suspect.html

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Rob
Paris Hilton

Yes we should stop them, but..

Seeing as they are the ones who make the rules, how exactly can we stop them from doing anything they want to?

If that involves taking your DNA for swearing at a badger, you might disaprove, but really, what can you do?

-and don't tell me to vote for someone else next time, because that won't affect DNA being put in the database NOW, and once it's in there, what's the chances no-one. anyone, anywhere, has made a 'backup'?

Plus, voting for just a different bunch of identikit morons to be in power isn't going to change anything, i say we all vote green next time, they can't make it much worse, ad at least they'd have good intentions.

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Possibly the most worrying part...

"The record will be retained on PNC until that person is deemed to have reached 100 years of age,"

So it's not a matter of WHEN you reach 100 years of age but when you are DEEMED to have reached it.

"Nope, sorry mate - you don't look a day over 95 to me, and you ID card doesn't help - they were cracked back in 2009 and the market flooded with fakes.

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Coat

Not convicted, doesn't mean not guilty...

The Crown Prosecution Service, like the Met or any other force has stringent targets and many times will drop a prosecution for no other reason that it is deemed too costly to proceed. There are also cases dropped because of witnesses not coming forward, etc. Youth crime is a massive problem nowadays.. why the big surprise at all the kids on the database.

Gentlemen, start your flamethrowers.

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Anonymous Coward

A little problem with numbers here.

How does 4.5 million records constitute a massive database in any bodies language, how about Equifax, Boots, Tescos, the DVLA, VOSA, NHS, DWP and HMRC, CRB and National Pigeon Fanciers to name but a few who have larger databases. I also suspect Tescos knows more about us than ACPO.

I also suspect there's a few more that 4.5 Million records on the PNC.

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"established beyond reasonable doubt that no offence existed"

It's interesting to note that he uses the phrase "established beyond reasonable doubt that NO OFFENCE EXISTED".

That means that if an offence did exist (e.g. someone got murdered), but you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that you didn't do it (e.g. rock solid alibi), they can still retain your DNA as the offence still exists.

Note that this isn't limited to your DNA, but finger prints and records of your arrest tied to details of the crime. Even with your DNA deleted, you're still shit out of luck if you want to join the police, work in the criminal justice system, or do anything that requires an enhanced CRB check.

It's my personal opinion that once an investigation into a crime has ended, or, for those left open for some period after a set period of time (e.g. 1 to 5 years depending on the type of crime), the details of anyone not found guilty of a crime should have their records completely cleared.

Not many people realise that if you're unlucky to be arrested again a second time, the Police can (and often do) take into account your full previous record (including arrests that resulted in no action) when deciding how to proceed (e.g. whether to release, caution, refer to CPS for charge advice etc.).

Disclaimer, I'm an ex UK cop.

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Dead Vulture

Paranoia and general FUD

Sorry El Reg, and Lucy. I'm usually right alongside the viewpoints Reg writers, but this is just baseless paranoia.

Yes, everything is recorded on PNC, significantly more is recorded on local police intelligence databases. Do you know what these sometimes come in useful for? Solving crimes.

I've had first-hand experience of how small, seemingly irrelevant details recorded on police systems have added up to worthy intelligence resulting in arrests and the recovery of stolen goods.

Yes systems like this are open to abuse, but so are all systems storing confidential data. Be afraid of big brother knowing as much as he can about you if you will, I for one will be happier knowing that crimes are being solved and prevented by good intelligence.

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Number problem

I think the difference is that neither Tesco, nor even the NPF, has the power to arrest you...

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Unhappy

Old Saxon saying...

Its better a hundred guilty men escape punishment than 1 inocent be punished in error.

Be had it right a thousand years ago, why is it so hard today.

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Anonymous Coward

hmmm

long ago we ruled quater of the land mass of the planet with little better then sailing ships and muskets.

Now we have more databases and fascism then you can shake a stick at and we can't run our own back yard.

Not that we relly on machines and procedure now instead of common sense and intuition.

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@Old Saxon Saying...

Of course, the saxons did also favour trial by ordeal, so lets not mention them too often lest the Ministry of Justice get ideas.

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Paris Hilton

Defacing coins isn't illegal any more...

According to the little brass plate attached to the last coin smashing machine I saw, the Coinage Offences act of 1936 was the piece of legislation which prohibited, amongst other things, the defacing of any current coin. This was repealed in its entirety by the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act of 1981.

You earned your money, do what you want with it!

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Alert

Petty Non-Crimes

Defacing coins, as mentioned, isn't a crime any more. For the record, neither is attempted suicide - that was removed from the statute books by the Suicide Act 1961; although the same act made complicity in another's suicide a crime.

All that said, the trend towards arbitrary storage of personal data - apparently for no more worthy reason than that it's possible - does concern me. My main worry is based on the fact that it just seems to be taken for granted that if it can physically be done, these agencies and organisations have the right to do it. Not only governments, either, but companies: as I understand it (and I'd love to be wrong) the amount of data that firms like Tesco are taking it upon themselves to hold, apparently for no good reason whatsoever, is quite alarming.

And the less said about Bloody Google the better.

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Dead Vulture

Trial By Ordeal

"If that hoodie wearing 14 yo floats he's guilty and we should put his details on the PNC until we think he's a hundred ,if he drowns then its beyond our training and social responsibility to make any effort at all to rescue him"

Where's the "down with the gov" icon?

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Mars

what's wrong with having a database?

The unusual reaction remarked on is perhaps related to why doctors make bad patients - they want less operations and pills for themselves.

To address the question posed:

1) The database is not representative, of either Brits or criminals

2) The policy for capturing and auditing data is baroque

3) the error rate in a good database might be 90% complete and correct - how does John Smith activate error correction procedures?

4) There is no personal advantage to providing information

5) There is no believable statement on current or future use restrictions - when will the police flog it on to Tesco?

6) the link to identity files is nigh, desired by administrators but less so by politicians

The latest call from Swiss populist politicians is for DNA data from foreigners - skiing holiday anyone?

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@A.Lewis

> I've had first-hand experience of how small, seemingly irrelevant details recorded on police systems have added up to worthy intelligence resulting in arrests and the recovery of stolen goods.

And what about Raymond Easton, the guy with Parkinson's Disease who was arrested for burglary because of a False Positive?

It was only the fact that he *had* Parkinson's Disease and thus it was obvious that there was no way in hell he could have traveled 200 miles and climbed through someone's window to steal goods that allowed him to be acquitted.

If he was an ordinary bloke he'd probably have been banged up because "we've got your DNA sunshine, that *proves* you were there!"

Now consider how many false positives are likely to result if *everyone's* DNA is on file.

FUD? I don't think so.

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Mythology?

I sometimes wonder if the whole DNA thing isn't becoming as overestimated as the polygraph - the so-called 'lie detector', the mythology around which leads even law-enforcement agencies to seriously consider using it as an evidence-gathering tool, despite the fact that there's not a shred of evidence that it proves anything.

I'm not disputing that there's actual real science behind DNA identification (unlike the polygraph which is just a series of assumed conclusions); but what concerns me is just how conclusive DNA can possibly be. I mean, as far as I understand it we're each shedding DNA all the time, constantly, everywhere we go. And it doesn't necessarily stay where we put it. We touch someone, they touch someone else; or someone gets on the bus we've not long been on, or whatever, and our DNA gets transferred. And it strikes me that the primary assumption on which DNA evidence is built ("if your DNA is here, you were here") becomes a bigger and bigger leap the more sensitive the techniques for recovering DNA become. It's one thing to identify a suspect by some other means and take their DNA exclusively for the purpose of eliminating them (if their DNA isn't there, then they probably weren't either) - but it's quite another to keep everyone on file and just run a search of the database every time a crime occurs.

DNA should be considered one little spirally thread of evidence - not the be-all and end-all of a case. There might be no end of reasons why traces of a person's DNA could be at the scene of a crime, and for the moment at least (although I genuinely don't think the principle will survive much longer) a person is innocent until PROVEN guilty.

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Black Helicopters

@ A.Lewis

<<I for one will be happier knowing that crimes are being solved and prevented by good intelligence.>>

So, you believe that crimes weren't solved and prevented before DNA testing? I've got news for you - they were. They were even solved and prevented before fingerprinting. Yes, some crimes go unsolved, but they still will. The database might prevent some petty crime, but not spur-of-the-moment or serious crime.

Any database will eventually provide more noise than information. Fingerprints and DNA are left everywhere you go. If samples were taken from every crime scene, the evidence would become more and more circumstantial, because all it shows is that an individual was there, along with many others. The noise issue can be used by a serious criminal who thinks ahead: find a source of random DNA, such as the vacuum cleaner bag of a public place, and scatter it around the crime scene. For better cover, make sure that there is evidence that you were in that public place (easy with CCTV coverage these days). Even if the criminal's DNA can be isolated, there is no DNA evidence against them!

Whoops - I think I hear the helicopters. I may be some time ....

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