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back to article Freedoms Bill: Gov may U-turn on personal data and DNA retention

Following last week's U-turn on prison sentencing, I think there is a possibility that the government could change its approach to the retention of personal data on the DNA database. Ministers are clearly worried that they are being labelled as "soft on law and order", especially by the tabloid press. At last week's Prime …

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Pint

Do you really think that you can do without title?

Dear Sir,

And a government operated ICT-based DNA database is going to improve the conviction rate how exactly? Oh you mean, this will be the ICT thing that the government can actually do?

Interesting point of view.

Or maybe it is paperbased, to circumvent screw-ups. And then the conviction is ever so (s)low.

Or maybe the government leaks private data, and then the tabloid press screams bloody murder.

Regards,

Guus Leeuw

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JMB

DNA

It has been obvious through all the discussions on DNA that the UK police do not understand the concept of being "innocent". If someone is arrested but not charged then he is no different to any other innocent person.

It is only a matter of time before they want DNA of the whole population.

I always worry about the absolute faith they have in the infallibility of DNA evidence - there was the case where a woman was very nearly charged with murdering a newborn baby because of DNA matching but fortunately they were able to prove that the match was with her deceased mother. If had not been able to prove that she would have been sent to prison for a long sentence. As the DNA database gets larger then so will be the number errors and false convictions from it.

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And dont forget

There have been at least two cases involving Chimeras wher the prosecution almost went the wrong way till common sense got in the way.

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@JMB

"If someone is arrested but not charged then he is no different to any other innocent person".

The more so as nowadays police are obliged to arrest first and collect evidence later. If someone rings up the police and alleges that A assaulted B, the police officer who deals will normally commence by finding A and arresting him/her - often without a shred of evidence beyond the bare allegation.

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"thousands of men who have been accused of rape...

"... will have their details removed from the DNA database under government plans"

In other words, thousands of men who have *NOT* been found guilty of rape will be considered to be innocent as per the fundamental principle of justice in this country.

Which is fine, unless you believe that "all men are rapists"...

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FAIL

Bring it on !!!!

I am sick and tired of hearing people whose knowledge of science is approaching zero (from the wrong way) telling me the only way to do anything is to have masses of records.

As someone with a vague clue, I just see the signal to noise ratio issue here. And all these plans (DNA/fingerprint retention, this list, that list, this database, that database, ISP records, phone records, email records, text records, websites visited records) are just adding to the noise, with no signal.

A "one in a million" match is less impressive, when you perform it on a database with 10 million records.

So, UK, keep it up. In the meantime, I will wait for the first case where DNA from a scene (which only establishes atemporal presence) is put into the system and more than one match comes out. At which point, the defence have just been handed "reasonable doubt". And the value of DNA as a crime fighting tool will have been dramatically curtailed.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually...

In Scotland, where they don't keep DNA evidence from non-convicted people forever, they have a significantly higher efficiency in their DNA database, becuase of the removal of all the noise.

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Comment of the week candidate

***"I am sick and tired of hearing people whose knowledge of science is approaching zero (from the wrong way)"***

Top comment!

Hope you don't mind if I use that one myself.

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Paris Hilton

more signal, less noise

it also helps that the megaphones of little englanders (the daily heil and daily getsworse) have got absolutely no influence on scottish public opinion and politicians.

paris icon because she's got lots of experience gathering dna samples

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@AC 1051 28/6

"I am sick and tired of hearing people whose knowledge of science is approaching zero (from the wrong way)..."

As Scott Adams put it in one of his Dilbert titles, "When did ignorance become a point of view?"

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @AC 1051 28/6

Funny Scott Adams would say that and then completely forget all about it.

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Holmes

Could be a long wait

'I will wait for the first case where DNA from a scene is put into the system and more than one match comes out. At which point, the defence have just been handed"reasonable doubt"'

Only if the prosecution chooses to tell them about it.

Good luck with that.

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Big Brother

Or does she..

"In short, Ms Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, has to understand that she needs more than tabloid attracting rhetoric to back her claims. ®"

Does she really tho? Certainly hasn't stopped previous Home Secretaries like Mrs Jacqui Smith to push on with whatever it is they want to push on with regardless of things like facts, logic, or expert opinion and in fact armed with nothing more than tabloid attracting rhetoric.

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Can anyone remember the last sane home secretary?

Anyone?

I think it might have been Ken Clarke sometime in the early Mesozoic, but if not you're probably back at Roy Jenkins.

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Anonymous Coward

How about...

We have a thing where, when these fuckers get into power, they stick to the things they said in order to get elected, rather than pandering to the Daily Mail's terrified whine of the week? If they back off on DNA retention, we'll be back to the police arresting people for walking on the cracks in the pavement, just to notch up another "criminal who hasn't been convicted" to the database.

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Tough on law and order?

Simples - make DNA retention of innocent people against the law (AFAIK it already is according to the ECHR) , and lock up (and collect the DNA) of any plod, politician, or other officious bastard who falls foul of it. There. sorted.

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Small flaw in your plan

It's already been proven that the law doesn't apply to politicians or policemen. It only applies to us proles.

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Stop

Why this woman is wrong.

The DNA database, holds a DNA 'fingerprint' which is based on short sections of DNA. A match on the database does not mean the DNA being tested came from the same person as the sample in the database. It means there is a low probability that it came from someone else, of, lets say, 1 in a million. Of course, 1 in a million means that there are some six thousand other people on the planet that would also match, and given the nature of the matching, those people would likely mostly be in the same population.

The real danger is that people think that a 'match' on a DNA database means teh DAN came for the same person. What it is actually useful for is EXCLUDING people, i.e. saying teh DAN did NOT come from the same person.

Trawling the DNA database for matches to find the perpetrator of a crime is logically fallacious for this reason. Anyone who claims more DNA samples should eb kept so we can 'catch more rapists' is an idiot. When someone is arrested for rape, a DNA sample is taken, which may or may not match DNA taken at the scene of the crime. The presence, or not, of that DNA sample on a police databse has no bearing on the conviction rate.

I would suggest that Ms Cooper either fails to understand the matter about which she appears to be so passionate, or that she is deliberately misstating the facts purely for some sort of political points-scoring. Either way, she should be immediately removed from any position of authority, as she is clearly either incapable of holding such a position, or is abusing it.

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Black Helicopters

Exactly !!!! (And why it scares me)

Unlike fingerprints (which are also indexed) DNA samples do not (except in very rare cases) hold the entire sequence. Once a suspects DNA is taken it is reduced to an index (IIRC 10-point ? Although there are plans to change that), that index is ALL YOU HAVE.

So, posit: 2020, when the DNAD has 10,000,000 records. A crime is committed. Police find DNA, and enter into the DNAD ... and get 10 matches.

Bear in mind they haven't got the *original* DNA that goes behind these matches, so they can't home in on the individual which may (or may not) match their sample.

So they now have 10 potential suspects. They find and interview 4 immediately. 2 have since moved/changed names and take longer. One has died. One has emigrated. One was injured in an accident and can't walk. And one can't be found at all.

Now, any one of the 4 the police did find (and will presumably drag to court) will have a ready made "reasonable doubt" argument. By failing to eliminate the final match, unless the police have done some spectacularly good real police work, the defence can always say "but you never eliminated this person". Don't be surprised to hear government noises about how "beyond reasonable doubt" is a criminals charter, and really we should be satisifed with a "balance of probablilities" approach to jailing criminals.

What really scares me, is that it seems historically, when the UK faces obstacles to getting people locked up, in the shape of pesky civil liberties and protection from injustice, we seem to almost unerringly go the way of weakening the protections, rather than strengthening the investigation.

Of course once a UK court has played out the weakeness of holding so much DNA, it won't be long before foreign courts point to the UK as evidence of the weakeness of DNA testimony. Not something I can see the UK getting a "most popular member of the international law enforcement community" award for. I know from US friends in law enforcement, that some parts of the UK police are regarded as no better than the Marx brothers anyway.

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Where is this bill anyway?

Were we not promised this bill soon after the coalition got in?

I was most interested in the part that put a stop to the clamping cowboys.

I've been waiting for ages and still nothing has been done.

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Big Brother

Protection of Freedoms Bill

The Lib Dems' proposed Freedom Bill, combined with the Tories' proposed Great Repeal Bill, ended up as the Protection of Freedoms Bill:-

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/protectionoffreedoms.html

This seems to ignore most of the strongly supported proposals we, the public, made to the Your Freedom website:-

http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100824180635/http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/

I gather the official line is that there's other stuff being done in other Bills, which is supposed to explain why there isn't more stuff in the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

I'm not surprised that the Tories' claimed commitment to civil liberties turned out to be paper thin, but I'm utterly disgusted with the wilful uselessness of the Lib Dems on this stuff.

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Flame

Politicians *love* to push hot buttons.

And rape works almost as well as the ever popular TOTC routine.

But if Cooper has *so* many cases where DNA was the *key* element in finding the criminal why did choose ones which are so *marginal* in terms of the use of DNA?

Are these are her *best*?

Because (given the amount of time NuLabor's DNA policy has run, and is *still* running) you'd think she'd have some gems.

Cases where the culprit came within a *whisker* of walking away after 5 years.

Or perhaps where the DNA sample was the *only* evidence which (finally) gets a confession out of them. CCTV is rubbish, no finger prints, car identification etc.

Note that at present it is only *possible* Cameron's feet are turning to clay. I hope he will show some *real* backbone (or at least the Lib Dem force him to make good on his promise).

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PT
Big Brother

Hot buttons

Of course this is just a variation on TOTC. For who will step forward to defend the anonymity of rapists? But that's not the real purpose of the database. Its use for rape cases will be an extremely small percentage and the majority of searches will be of the general dragnet variety.

I imagine the shadow home secretary is looking forward to the day when it can be used to identify and fine people who drop litter in the street out of sight of the cameras. Or perhaps, when Nu Lab is back in power, it will be used to identify dissidents.

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FAIL

Government in general (and this is, I dare say, no exception)

need to lrn2statistics.

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Big Brother

title

How to get your pet law law pushed through or force government to make a U turn on a good idea: make it into a gender issue (say it will help find rapists), make it into a "child protection" issue, shout hysterically as loud as you can to every news paper.

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Big Brother

Orwell and Hitler Quotation Time

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people." - Adolf Hitler

One of Labour's other themes is Domestic Violence and Violence against Women and Girls (it's the (gender) feminist struggle against the patriarchy, you see, if you're wondering why boys are omitted as if to fend for themselves). (There are other flavours of feminism available, but Labour tends to be more concerned about groups than individuals.)

Sexual abuse of children and domestic violence against women and girls form a potentially powerful combination for those who basically want to abolish privacy from the State. The kind of argument favoured by Yvette Cooper and the like basically boils down to an argument for the State and its agents (the police particularly) to be unrestricted in their surveillance abilities over us.

Apply those kinds of arguments to the Orwellian idea of CCTV cameras in every room of every home, and you can see where this kind of politics must inevitably lead.

Most sexual and violent abuse of children and women takes place within the privacy of the home. As long as we fail to have pervasive domestic CCTV, such preventable abuse will continue and perpetrators will remain free to continue their abuse. Therefore, those opposed to such a national panopticon policy are actually defending child molesters, domestic abusers and rapists.

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized." - George Orwell's Ninteen Eighty-Four

http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/books/1984.htm

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@AC 12:50

"The kind of argument favoured by Yvette Cooper and the like basically boils down to an argument for the State and its agents (the police particularly) to be unrestricted in their surveillance abilities over us".

Us, that is, with the obvious exception of Yvette Cooper and the like. Who are obviously above suspicion.

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Big Brother

We can but hope...

That they don't think of obtaining a DNA sample as part of the registration of a birth.

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g e
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Sounds like

The ACPO have been taking people out to dinner again...

Power-crazed lunatics.

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Unhappy

Ed Miliband on Civil Liberties

It's worth remembering what Ed Miliband said on civil liberties when running for the Labour leadership:-

"We sometimes seemed too casual about civil liberties."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/01/labour-leadership-hustings-ed-miliband

Not that they actually were "too casual" (but merely being casual's okay?), but just that they "seemed too casual".

Ed's supposedly one of the more liberal Labour figures, yet his relative liberalism seems to stretch no further than worrying a bit about how Labour might come across as, well, "too casual about civil liberties." Is he really any less authoritarian than other Labour figures, such as John Reid and Jacqui Smith? Or is he just worried that he might be seen to be as authoritarian?

We know we can't rely on Labour to protect our civil liberties, and we know we can't rely on the Tories, either. And the Lib Dems are turning out to be about as reliable as a wet paper bag. What then are we to do to reclaim and protect our civil liberties from the State?

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Anonymous Coward

Liberty

"We know we can't rely on Labour to protect our civil liberties, and we know we can't rely on the Tories, either. And the Lib Dems are turning out to be about as reliable as a wet paper bag."

---------------

Any society that "relies" on the State (or political parties) to protect their civil liberty deserves the tyranny that they will undoubtedly end up getting.

Liberty (Freedom) is not given, it's taken.

The abject apathy of the majority in this country with respect to their own freedom is exactly why we're headed in the direction that we are. If we as a society don't give a damn about our own freedoms, then why the hell should the corrupt elite powers-that-be?

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Megaphone

Rape is an abhorrent crime

/steps on soapbox

But lets stop using it as a bloody excuse to keep DNA profiles of people who are innocent. God forbid If a person is raped, then DNA evidence will be taken. At this point the police are **supposed** to investigate the crime, arrest suspects and then check their DNA against the crime scene. If there is a match then further evidence etc convicts the person, not hey lets just keep everyone's DNA as they are BOUND to be guilty of something sooner or later.

Its this constant abuse and mission creep by the government and the police which, I believe, is eventually going to lead to mass civil unrest because people are getting very close to the tipping point of saying enough is enough.

/steps off soapbox

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Anonymous Coward

"What then are we to do to reclaim and protect our civil liberties from the State?"

UP THE ЯEVOLUTIOИ, COMЯADES!

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Black Helicopters

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men,

I will find something in them which will hang him."

-- Cardinal Richelieu

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FAIL

if they back down on this

I will be asking Damien Green to voluntarily add his DNA sample back to the Database as his was hastily removed by the Kent Police after his arrest and he was one of the most vociferous campaigners to have innocent peoples data removed.

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Explain this please

I have read this article, and the ensuing comments, with some care, but I find myself confused by at least one paragraph. I refer to the one which starts :

"If Ms Cooper's argument is that, with respect to DNA retention, rapists who are not convicted are treated differently, or treated exactly the same as convicted rapists"

It was always my belief, perhaps naively, that if you weren't convicted, you were innocent. Even in the case of driving a push-bike without lights - never mind more serious offences - you are not guilty until the Foreman of the Jury says so. And if he doesn't say guilty, then you weren't a lightless cyclist or a rapist.

Chris Cosgrove

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Headmaster

meh

Given the gist of the article, I am more tempted to put this down to an inadvertently missing 'accused' or 'alleged'.

In any case, innocence in law (you have not been convicted) is different to true innocence (you didn't do it). Two very different concepts.

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Having your cake and eating it.

So, Not Guilty doesn't mean Not Guilty? Why should anyone be treated differently because of the nature of the accusation? The simple answer would be to compile a database of everyone's DNA and have done with it. See how the "nothing to fear if you're innocent" brigade like them apples.

I am sick and tired of the ends justifying the means arguments being used over and over again when these erosions of our freedoms are touted.

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