back to article Three months on, you still can't get off the DNA database

Almost three months on from the unanimous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the UK's mass retention of DNA of innocent people, the situation has turned worse. Although eventually the UK should become compliant with the ruling, police forces are adopting a wait and see attitude, while Jacqui Smith is …

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If they are holding on to your details illegally...

...and a prosecution results by you being found via a search on this database, surely you could get a case thrown out of court. All fingerprints and DNA evidence could be ruled inadmissible making it difficult to prove you were at the scene of the crime.

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Heart

@David Mery

"They want to have their cake and eat it."

Oh, thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU for actually using that term correctly!

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Unhappy

@myself

Damnit, I shouldn't be posting this early in the morning. I went and complimented the author for getting it wrong. It's 'eat your cake and have it' - I misread. You can indeed have your cake and then eat it. That's what people usually do. The opposite, however, is tricky...

Oh well.

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Pirate

I like it!

"In anticipation of receiving further guidance and the necessary changes in the law, your details will now be retained within my department and dealt with in the appropriate way as soon as possible"

In other words: this person must be planning something that the DNA database will help solve, therefore it'll be held on to and investigated when we've finished this cup of tea. and that one. and that one.

The police are probably seeing these letters as a statement of intent to commit a crime.

It wasn't me, occifer!

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Happy

'I was just following orders! Guv'

I will carry on with what I am doing even throught I know it is wrong and against the Law.

The sooner we have a Election the better.

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Black Helicopters

Don't hold your breath

This bunch of fascists and the chief piggie Jakky, will hold out till they are dragged kicking and squealing from the trough in which they sit

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Anonymous Coward

Heads we win, tails you lose

You didn't really think the UK government would pay any attention to this, did you? As you explain, nothing will happen until parliament changes British law - and there are all sorts of ways that could be delayed. For years, most likely.

It's always the same story. Our masters know best what is good for us, and they make sure it happens. If they can dress it up to look "democratic" or otherwise legitimate, jolly good show. Otherwise, the iron hand comes out from behind the velvet glove.

In the words of the old Red Army saying, "If you don't know how, we'll teach you. If you don't want to, we'll make you". Curious how often New Labour reminds us of the USSR, isn't it? I wonder why.

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Anonymous Coward

Two requests they won't get

Well they'll have two fewer to consider as neither Lord Levy nor Ruth Turner had their DNA taken when they were arrested. Funny old thing, privilege.

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Well what a surprise...

... more weaseling from Wacky Jacqui and her Control Freak friends :-(

:-(

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Jobs Halo

Does not.....

surprise me as both Police and fascist Labour Govt believe that they can do what the F they want

and get away with it.

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Am i missing something?

But where is the actual harm? Unless you're planning to commit a crime does it really hurt for them to have a sample of your DNA somewhere? Even if the data gets left on a laptop in a taxi, what could someone really do with it?

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Alert

Shurely shome mishtake

Much as I sympathise with Andrew Dismore, but I can't help but feel that his timetable is being a little unfair to HM Govt.:

"we would expect the Government to write to us with their initial reaction to the judgment by 4 January 2008 and with their proposed response to the judgment, including any proposals for general measures which the Government considers necessary to remedy the breach before 4 March 2008."

Much as they should have been able to see it coming, asking Wacky Jaqui and cronies to respond to the judgement before it had been given is probably a bit sharp

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Black Helicopters

"Papers, Citizen"

"That is all. Be on your way now!"

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Black Helicopters

Naive, really.....

To think this Government would take a blind piece of notice of an ECtHR ruling.

I mean they have taken no notice, whatsoever, of the European Commission's requests for the UK Government to explain its lack of action over P***m.

(Am I allowed to mention the '"P" word, given that their lawyers seem to have put the frighteners on everyone, including The Register?)

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Anonymous Coward

See how far over the line she is?

There's not even the pretence of compliance, it's like the expulsion of the Dutch MP to prevent him speaking to the House of Lords, she's totally over the line, out of control, not bounded by any need to comply with UK or EU law.

Really, she should just be removed from office.

Look at the telephone records thing. She could release her telephone records and prove she didn't fraudulently claim expenses, but she doesn't and nobody will make her. That includes the Prime Minister or the rest of the cabinet. She can do whatever she wants and nobody bats an eye, because they're all too weak to tackle her.

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Stop

So I was watching...

V for Vendetta again last night... scarily.. Britain seems to moving towards the Britain that's portrayed in the film. Soon we'll have curfew, Gestapo style police force and some random bloke wearing a mask talking in a posh English accent and blowing up buildings....

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Re:Heads we win, tails you lose

***"Curious how often New Labour reminds us of the USSR, isn't it? I wonder why."***

The fact that "The Red Flag" is their anthem and used to be their logo (until 1986)?

Actually, I have always thought their current logo (the red rose) is more appropriate. Looks and smells very nice, but underneath all you find is a load of unpleasant pricks.

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Paris Hilton

The answer is in Waquis letter

I am about to do my reqest and will be quoting Ms Smiths letter where she says the judgement has to be incorporated into UK law as a basis for immediate removal.

Interestingly as International law requires compliance with the ruling will the chief constables saying no put themselves forward for prosecution at the Hague?

I also suspect a caveat of an action for damages if they delay might focus the corrupt bunch a little.

Paris, she's always compliant.

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Possession being nine tenths...

Are there now grounds for refusing to provide a DNA sample until you're convicted? Having not been in the situation, presumably you're arrested and are then supposed to cooperate in providing a sample - what happens if you refuse, quoting the ECHR judgement and the fact that you wish to assist the police in not being in breach of that judgement. Do they restrain you and extract your DNA by force? Or do you just get charged with failing to provide DNA, found guilty and then have it extracted because you've been convicted of something?

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Re:Am i missing something?

Yes, you *are* missing something.

It isn't what someone can or cannot do with your electronic DNA profile that you need to worry about. As you correctly surmise there is, actually very little they can do with it.

What you are missing is what happens if your DNA happens to be at a crime scene, either accidentally (because you were there at some time, because the real crook bought your 2nd hand coat and left it at the scene) or deliberately (you leave DNA everywhere you go, even your poo can incriminate you. Ooh look sergeant, the stupid burglar took a dump and didn't flush)

And then there are the usual Police cock-ups. wrongly labelled samples, poor crime-scene management, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Cake. Mmm. Lovely cake.

@David Wiernicki

If you've eaten your cake you don't have it any more (because it's been eaten).

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I found this hillarious:

"...your details will now be retained within my department..."

So, sonny, you have written to us to ask that your details, retained by us, should be removed. In response, I shall retain EVEN MORE information about you... MUAHAHAHAAAA!!!

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@Simon Miles "Where is the harm"

I am so sick and tired of people like you assuming DNA technology is a magic bullet.

When DNA is taken from a person, it's boiled down to a hash (involving so many markers and base pairs, beyond that I'm a little shaky). It's like identifying you from your house number, surname, and inside leg measurement.

The bigger the DNA database becomes, the more "false matches" you will get, as the hashing isn't guarenteed to produce unique codes (cf house number, surname, and inside leg measurement).

So when you get arrested, door kicked in, accused of being a rapist, because your *hash* matches a suspects *hash*, will you still ask "where's the harm ?"

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Harm

<quote>But where is the actual harm? ... Even if the data gets left on a laptop in a taxi, what could someone really do with it?</quote>

We can tell if your father is your biological father, and if you are the biological father of your children. We can tell if you're going to get certain inherited diseases and make it much harder for you to obtain private medical insurance. We can leave DNA evidence at the scene of a crime to stitch you up. We can make a mix-up in analysis of DNA from a crime scene, break down your door, drag you out in front of the neighbours and take all your computers away for a year (don't worry, in a couple of years you'll get your name cleared).

If none of those things bother you, you can voluntarily give your DNA to the police right now. There really is nothing to stop you doing that. Don't make the rest of us do it though.

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Boffin

@ By Simon Miles - Its not the database of DNA that is really the problem

It is what they intent to do with it.

I would quite happily give them my DNA to check I wasn't involved in a crime. But once you hand it over it no longer belongs to you. That much is obvious because you cannot get it taken off

So if you have a sample of 9 million DNA samples what would you do with it.

Sell it to:

Life Assurance companies - They could use it to track your family potential for catching cancer,

Car Insurance Companies - Assess your sons potential to be killed drink driving

Health Assurance Company - Assess you potential of becoming an alcoholic.

Use it for Criminal profiling

Is it nature/Nurture are you born a criminal or made into one.

Job Agencies: If you get this job will you take excessive sickness/steal from the company.

Was your father a rapist? Should you be watched incase you go the same way

Eugenics

You cannot have children because there is a one in 100 chance that your children may have a faulty gene.

You cannot have children because there is a five in 100 chance that your children may turn into Criminal.

You cannot have children because there is a 50 in 100 chance that your children may be ginger!

Do anybody think that these things will not happen. Think again! The temptations or Scope Creep would be just to great.

I want to be judged by my actions not something I have no control over. i.e My family history

Rant over!!!

Speccy - Well obvious really

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Black Helicopters

Best intentions are the road to hell

But then again, I just consider our current government to be evil incarnate.

I hope the Labour party are so completely destroyed at the next election that the LibDems become the opposition.

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@Simon Miles

"does it really hurt for them to have a sample of your DNA somewhere?"

A good point - so let me offer you this scenario.

You get in a cab - you are dropped off at the place that you have asked to be taken to and pay for the fare. Later that day, a squad of C19 burst through your door and point firearms at your head, before whisking you off to Paddington Green secure unit for nasty people where you wait for 6 weeks whilst they investigate.

What has happened is that later in the morning, someone has telephoned in a bomb threat. They happen to see a cab outside of the place concerned, with somone leaving a shopping bag in a bin. So they run a test in a cab (not necessarily the right one), find your DNA (along with several others) and Robert is your father's brother.

They then tell the press that they have foiled a terror threat (they can't give details as that would not be in the country's best interests) - you were innocent, but they "had to be sure". The authorities trumpet that they have foiled a "major terror plot".

One weasily worded apology later and you can go back to your normal life. True, you no longer have a job, a bank account or any credit rating, so you don't really have a life any more, but it was "all in the best interests of the nation" - so that's good. Also, your passport is taken away, so you can't leave the country.

They also forget to update the records, so your DNA sample is now in the CRB database - as a criminal. You are not allowed to get it updated, as they insist that they never make mistakes. You are then on various watch lists, and occasionally find your actions being monitored.

Couldn't happen in this country? Think again.

Just because you are paranoid, doens't mean that they are not out to get you!

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Anonymous Coward

@Am i missing something?

Well at the simplist level, the more dna that is in the database the more likely there are to be mistakes. The most likely of course is that a DNA sample is incorrectly assigned to a record, whether that is a criminals dna is assigned to your record or your dna assigned to a criminals record.

Then there is the assumption that the Police will just sit back and leave those DNA records be, which they don't we already know that they farm the data out to private companies to perform "research" most of which focuses on identifiying "bad genes" this in turn allowing them to profile large sections of the population for observation based on whether they posses certain genes.

Also don't count against the powers that be eventually commercialising parts of the system (be it the DNA register, the CRB checks or National Identity Register) to adverstising, insurance and others.

There are dozens of reasons you don't want the government, police, et al, to posses too many records on you in a single location, and only one or two why you would want them two, both of which are a illusion they'll make you safer, they'll protect justice.

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Re: Am i missing something?

"Unless you're planning to commit a crime does it really hurt for them to have a sample of your DNA somewhere?"

As others have pointed out, people can find all kinds of justification for all kinds of things from such information, regardless of how comprehensive that information may or may not be and whether such information can actually be used reliably for the purposes in question.

Moreover, with such information now floating around some database as the "gold standard" measure of your identity, if such information was accidentally or maliciously introduced into some evidence in a criminal trial, there's a danger that people will question even less how that evidence was gathered and whether it's even genuine: they might look at the magic codes and say, "Of course they were there, all the numbers came up!" Once you've been replaced by a sequence of bytes, it's amazing what kind of life those bytes can have all by themselves.

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I was not so much worried

about this stuff but anoyed that they were lieing and pissing about untill I was watching the BBC on Saterday morning and I watched that stupids Hariat Harman sat talking to Andrew Marr about the RBS chiefs pension...

Whils he may not be moraly right (I happen to think he did what he did faily with it and the government are now messing him about), but I digress... Her saying "He may be ok in a court of law, but not in a the court of public opinion, which is where we step in" scared the hell out of me. The government are now admiting that we are under Mob rule.

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@Wize

You have been watching too many US Crime Dramas, we are talking about English law!

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Re: Cake. Mmm. Lovely cake.

Nooooooooo!

The cake is a lie.......

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> Are there now grounds for refusing to provide a DNA sample until you're convicted?

No. If, after arrest, you refuse to be DNA sampled, the police can use force to obtain the samples.

br -d

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@ AC, 13:36

Bagsie the blowing shit up.

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Paris Hilton

@Simon Miles

Dear Mrs Smith

Your unique DNA fingerprint has been detected at ****A CRIME SCENE****, please report to your local Police station (114FGH) immediately for inclusion in the process of elimination. Failure to appear will be viewed as suspicious and will result in loss of tax benefits.

NOTHING TO HIDE, NOTHING TO FEAR.

Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.

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Anonymous Coward

@Paul

Glad I wasn't the only one who picked up on that particular line.

However it isn't as if that hasn't been the government line for the last decade (extreme porn, drugs, drawings, imprisonment without charge anybody?) "we'll make it illegal becouse we/people think it's bad." "We'll make it illegal becouse it's for your own good."

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Go

@ Michael

Do you qualify for blowing shit up?

For this you will need...

- One posh english accent

- A mask

- One hideout made with a yellow stone..

Oh and the ability to talk in riddles!

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Alert

What does she do after she's gone ?

I understand the reason waqui doesn't get much support from her colleagues is she has a marginal seat & it's expected she'll be booted out at the next election.

The frightening thing about that is she may go back to her day job, which I understand was teaching. Just who would want her teaching their kids ?

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Tom
Silver badge

its not a political decision

its technical

it will take another 20 years for the goverment IT suppliers to step from 'insert into bank_account;'

to 'delete from ... where...;

Cmon give them a break - these guys arnt programmers they're lawyers and managers. Cant expect results FFS, just invoices.

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Coat

Yeah but...

Look how long it took the US to clean-up Bill Clinton's DNA Sample.

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@Simon Miles

You are either shortsighted or a pretty decent troll.

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More power to the executive, less to the people

The reply my MP received (5th January) from Ms Smith's department included this paragraph:

"The government is considering the impact of the [ECHR] Judgement... and will agree with the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers on implementing the findings of the European Court. At this stage, the existing law on the taking and retention of DNA and fingerprints remains in place. This will continue to be the case until we are able to amend existing law. The matter of discretion is an operational one for the police force involved."

Though it would be interesting to see a judicial review, the next move from the Home Office is due this month.

An underlying problem is that the combined efforts of the hang 'em an' flog 'em brigades have the created a mood in favour of tagging - always provided that it's someone else on the databases, of course.

It is a hard task to engage the public in serious consideration of civil liberties when it's easy to blame a minority for society's ills.

It would seem that widespread apathy will yet again lead to an opportunity for an increase in executive powers in government. Power will have gone from parliament to the executive, further eroding our ability to change the law or to have any real say in how it develops.

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Unhappy

Court of Public Opinion

@ Paul

I have also been outraged by this comment by Harriet Harman that:

"Court of Public Opinion" > "Court of Law"

WTF? If they cared about public opinion why did they do half the things they have? This government is offensive to me.

But you are onto a good point. Where does this government disliking contracts, pay deals, how much people get paid end? Okay they signed a bum deal with RBS matey, that was their fault. But where do they draw the line? When do they decide that it's unfair anyone earns over £100,000; or earns more than £50,000; or earns more than whatever arbitrary level they see fit? (They'll collect the balance as tax.)

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Anonymous Coward

@Simon Miles

In 1989 a detective looking at the case notes for the Guildford 4 trial discovered the notes had been made to fit the evidence rather than t'other way around.

If you've got 9 million bits of evidence how good a case could you put together for <insert crime here>, given that some elements in the police force seem intent on fitting people up (Barry George, Kenny Richey, Colin Stagg, David Carrington-Jones and so on)?

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Re: Am i missing something?

Yes, you are.

Have you seen the film Gattaca?

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Coat

Proof...

...that the UK governement does *not* blindly implement every little sodding law that comes out of Brussels.

I'm getting my coat, packing my bags and leaving this country for one with less of an Orwellian governent. Like Russia.

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Buttle/Tuttle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_(film)

I love the over reaction about Fascist Britain, always good for a laugh. As if we've ever actually had true freedom in the first bleedin' place!

Really, people seem to assume that we were previously living in some wonderful utopia where "big brother" didn't exist and we could go about our business willy-nilly without a care in the world.

Hmm, not really folks. If truth be told, it was only the 60's which had a veneer of freedom about it. Prior to that, everyone did, by and large, exactly as they were told. Law and Order and Mind your Nose.

Seems we forget the troubles in the 70's / 80's and 90's all too easily.

The true worry here, folks, is the old Tuttle/Buttle issue - a cock up by the men in blue and your nicked for something you didn't do, only now, because everything is linked to a central database, your well and truly scuppered if you want to clear your name.

The DNA database will be awash with the usual clerical errors and we won't be any better off than we were before, will we now Ms. Smith?

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RW
Flame

Just one word to describe this

DISGUSTING

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Linux

Moral argument

"But where is the actual harm? Unless you're planning to commit a crime does it really hurt for them to have a sample of your DNA somewhere?"

Others here have made the practical argument against. How about the moral one?

It's a *criminal* database. It contains the DNA of people convicted of crimes by a court. It currently also contains the DNA of anyone unfortunate enough to have come under suspicion of committing a crime. By keeping the DNA of the innocent along with the convicted the government and police are basically saying "you did it but we can't prove it" and/or "if you came under suspicion you're basically a dodgy character anyway". Screw the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

If the government wants a universal database, it should make the case openly. I wouldn't agree with it, but at least they'd be honest about their intentions. Or they should just be upfront and say that they don't agree with the innocent until proven guilty, if PC Plod suspects you of a crime then you probably did it. Until they say that's what they're aiming for, what we're stuck with is a criminal database with a lot of innocent people on, whom the government doesn't consider to be all that innocent.

As for the practical consequences of having the wrong people on the database, remember the horrible murder of Sally Ann Bowman outside her house? Her poor bloody postman spent a couple of days in police custody being questioned about her death. He'd been arrested for some minor drunk and disorderly charge a couple of years previously and never charged. His DNA was nevertheless retained and being the postman his fingerprints were naturally all over her front door. Being on the criminal database was enough to convince the police that he was their psychopathic sex murderer. I hope nothing else ever happens on his round as he's now recorded on the database as being a suspected slasher who rapes corpses as well as a drunk.

There was another case of a law student being arrested in a case of mistaken identity then released. DNA retained though. Months later he posted his Christmas cards in a postbox which was set on fire. The police found his fingerprints on the postbox and rather charred letters and arrested him for arson. He was menaced in custody and told that they had his fingerprints so they could prove him guilty of an offence with a life sentence. However, they could avoid all this hassle (and improve clear up rates) if he just accepted a caution...... He stuck to his guns and eventually the police had to admit they were wrong. How many people who were not law students would have caved in and taken the caution if threatened with a life sentence? It's truly frightening how the police something think that the presence of DNA equals guilt. I suspect it's even more frightening how many juries would accept that as well.

All this is completely lost on my local former-human rights lawyer Labour MP who informed me that it was good for the innocent to be on the database as it allows them to be quickly eliminated from criminal enquiries........

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Anonymous Coward

there's the loophole NuLabour wanted

"...On 4th December 2008 the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held in the case of S & Marper that the retention of fingerprints and DNA of all persons, suspected but not convicted of offences, constituted a disproportionate interference with the individual's right to respect for a private life and could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society."

Ahh - The Gubmint got a Get Out Of Jail Free card there.

Democratic Society? They've heard of it, but like spontaneous combustion and flying saucers they don't believe in it

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