back to article Durham police demonstrate DNA will stuff you

Durham police last week put the final nail in the coffin of the Home Office mantra "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", with a clear announcement that DNA and fingerprinting could harm an individual’s career prospects – even if they are otherwise totally innocent. The warning came in a press release relating to mephedrone, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Arrest you anyway

    I'm more worried about the quote "In Durham police have taken a stance and anyone found with it will be arrested on suspicion of possession of a banned substance."

    This seems to be saying that if they know you have mephedrone they will arrest you anyway even though it isn't illegal to have it and they know that fact. INAL but I'm pretty sure that the police arresting you when they know you haven't broken the law should count as wrongful arrest.

    1. The BigYin

      On minor point

      Until they test the substance, how do they know it's not illegal to possess?

      I agree with the tone of the article, the explicit threat from the police is very worrying and something anyone with a brain could have seen coming. I can't help but think that the police are caught in a legal though (perhaps deliberately).

      If they let people out whilst the substances are tested, there will be stories all over the press about drug-dealers being set free.

      If the police take a harder stance, you get stories like this.

      I am not not sure what the actual answer is (and I doubt we'll get one from Labour or the Tories), but continually kicking plod doesn't strike me as being it.

      1. SuperTim

        then everyone is guilty!

        If the police have to test something to show it is safe, then maybe they should arrest everyone and then just release the innocent!

      2. Jimmy Floyd
        Big Brother


        I don't think the issue is being invited back to the station or even arrested on suspicion. If I get caught with a few grams of white powder I'd almost expect it!

        However, once the chemical has been tested, found NOT to be a controlled substance and I'm sent on my way, I expect there to be no further consequences. Full stop. End of. No grey areas.

        1. MH Media

          Yes, but..

          I agree, but I get the impression that the police would DNA swab you anyway ("just routine sir"), and then release you without charge when it's found to be a harmless substance.

        2. David 105
          Big Brother

          I am being discriminated against as Titles are against my religion

          Isn't that the plan?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      They'll simply clam that they thought it was Ecstasy and arrested you for that, and then found it wasn't.

      It does look like Constable Savage has been promoted to Chief Constable though.

    3. The Original Ash

      I don't need a title. This is a reply!

      They arrest you prior to forming a case, to collect evidence, and to test the substance to make sure it's not controlled. Kind of like saying "No officer, this is some self-raising flour for my mum to make a sponge." and them arresting you *on suspicion* of possession of a controlled substance.

      It's a common misconception that having a criminal record / soft information on a CRB check will stop you getting a job which requires you to have one. It's down to the employer.

    4. Greg J Preece

      Let's test this

      Get some, go to Durham, get arrested, have infinite amounts of fun making them look as big a bunch of idiots as possible. I'm sure El Reg would be only too glad to help out with the publicity on that case.

      I'm free this weekend. ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Title to reply without title

        "It's a common misconception that having a criminal record / soft information on a CRB check will stop you getting a job which requires you to have one. It's down to the employer."

        Meaning that this CRB is in fact a rumour database and acting on rumours is left to the discretion of employers. So the government is saying "nudge nudge wink wink say no more say no more". That sounds like a very useful public service to me.

        On the "if you have nothing to hide, nothing to fear" front, I find this a nice example of lying through truth for they neglect the obvious: Everybody has "something to hide", only we usually call it "protecting sensitive information", and you used to have a right by law to do that, and we called that a "right to privacy". I have a great deal to fear from a government that doesn't abide by its own guarantees to its citizens.

        Interestingly that very same government increasingly refuses to disclose information that obviously should and sometimes previously was public. What do they have to hide from their very own citizens, serving whom was supposed to be their core business?

      2. gerryg

        @The Original Ash

        "It's a common misconception"

        If you have a moment could you pop down from your lofty perspective and explain the common misconception to this bloke?

        I'm sure in the parallel universe you inhabit, he's employed, been promoted and got an MBE

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Steve Evans

        "whitish crystal/whitish powder when crushed"

        You mean like sugar or salt then?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, the irony.

      In which case should the arresting officer not have their fingerprints and DNA taken and added to the DNA register? And seeing as the arresting officer was "only acting unner orders" shouldn't every single member of the chain of command be similarly afflicted by the consequences of their piss-poor decision?

  2. SuperTim
    Black Helicopters

    Taking photos of Mephedrone

    Will the Durham police arrest me if i appear to be taking photographs of a legal substance, presumably for terrorist reasons?

    Also, to use the phrase "they are one molecule different" when the chemicals ARE molecules shows how soft they are. Its like saying that porsche is one car different from ferrari, or that oranges are one fruit different from melons.

    Besides, chemically they are different.

    C11H15NO 1-(4-methylphenyl)-2-methylaminopropan-1-one (mephedrone)

    is not the same as

    C11H15NO2 (RS)-1-(benzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)-N-methylpropan-2-amine (MDMA)

    In the same way that having a barrel of H2O in a car parked near a politicians house is not illegal, but having one with H2O2 will get you sent to the big house in a jiffy.

    Also, since when did ecstasy tablets actually have MDMA in them?

  3. Neal 5

    Who is in charge/This is my fucking town.

    Clearly El Reg and the Home Office are not in touch with reality. You answer to Durham Police, not the other way around. I am slightly dumbfounded that El Reg has not yet grasped this simple basic neccesity of public funded service. It is of course an understandle mistake by the Home Office that they have not yet bowed to Durham Police being as it is populated by MP's and civil servants, who have yet to grasp either the meaning of civil or servant, or MP's who don't give a toss for the laws, they just make them.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Arrest themselves

    After arresting someone for possession of something legal, presumably the Durham PC Plods would need to arrest themselves for carrying out an illegal arrest: then take their own DNA. Would that affect their own continued employment ?

  5. Fogcat

    They're tiny anyway

    "Its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy"

    Is molecule a misprint? Did they mean atom? Otherwise ecstasy is one molecule away from a lot of things.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      titular thingie

      Molecular structure != Molecule, there is one more Oxygen molecule in MDMA.

      Oh, and in answer to your closing question, they did have MDMA in them for a very short number of years late 80's to early 90's ;)

      Smiley, cos I was there ;)

      1. SuperTim

        Molecular structure

        They dont have the same structure either. Its not like MDMA with an extra oxygen molecule blu-tacced to the side of it.

      2. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

        Ding! Wrong!

        A molecule cannot contain another molecule as part of its structure; substructures may be referred to as subunits or functional groups. I think what you meant to say was 'one more Oxygen atom'.

        Unfortunately, this is also wrong. A quick search on t'internet will show you that, although these two molecules both have the same basic amphetamine skeleton, they differ by far more than the addition of an oxygen atom.

        Specifically, mephedrone has a keto functional group, which is actually the addition of an oxygen atom and the removal of two hydrogen atoms, as well as a methyl group attached to the ring structure in the para position, as opposed to a methylenedioxy fused ring.

        Given that both are small molecules, and small subsitutions on much larger molecules have significant effects on biological activity (cf. codeine and morphine), I think it is fair to say that whoever made this press release and claimed that these substances are "one molecule different" has absolutely no clue what they are talking about and anything they say should be discounted forthwith.

        1. SuperTim

          Yeah, see? Ed agrees with me!

          There is no blu-tac involved at all!

    2. blackworx


      I hope you're either trolling or being plain old sarcastic.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      its chemical formula is one molecule different

      Yep I second that!

      Gold is one molecule different to ecstasy!

      Its all Alchemy!!


      Burn them all...

      One atom makes a different, but similar molecule.

      One molecule different makes it anything.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I´m glad...

    ... that I invented a time machine and went back to Stalinist Russia. At least here I have more freedom than in the UK of A

  7. hugo tyson

    Suspicion based on ignorance

    Their position seems to be "we can arrest you on suspicion... because we are ignorant of chemistry, which allows us to suspect that substance A is the same as substance B." When it's not and the law and other matters of fact say it's not. Which pretty much brings the whole legal idea of suspicion into disrepute. Oh dear oh dear.

    What next, suspicion of carrying a knife because that spoon is cutlery but we're not experts?

    1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!

      Suspicion based on mind-boggling stupidity....!

      "What next, suspicion of carrying a knife because that spoon is cutlery but we're not experts?"

      More like arrested on suspicion of carrying a spoon, because it's only one space in the cutlery drawer away from the knives, and therefore carries the morphic resonance of knifiness in its molecular structure...

      I thought Yorkshire was bad where you get tasered for being diabetic... Seems Durham is going for the crown!

    2. NB

      titles are so last year...

      Ah, I see you've played knifey-spoony before!

    3. robert cooke

      @ Hugo

      why not? it's already happened in Tesco's. They refused to sell spoons to a young lady, as they were similar to knives or some stupid answer like that.

      From Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

      [the Sheriff has said he'll cut out Robin Hood's heart with a spoon]

      Guy of Gisborne: Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?

      Sheriff of Nottingham: Because it's DULL, you twit. It'll hurt more.

  8. davefb

    Lets face it,

    having a modicum of intellect isn't a pre-requisit for being in the force is it.

    Or at least Durham it would seem..

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    two tier law?

    First of all: being arrested does not mean you are a criminal. Being charged does not mean you are a criminal. Being GUILTY makes you a criminal.

    Somehow our society seems to have associated arrest with criminality (maybe from the "no smoke without fire" attitude, or maybe because the police treat everyone they come into contact with as a criminal - unless they can prove otherwise), which the fuzz not exploit to the full extent of their ability. So while we have a long standing history of law-making, with over 5500 statutes on the books there is another, undercurrent of law-making with no burden of proof, no protection for the innocent and no oversight or review, namely "Have you every been arrested?"

    This level of policing is much easier as it has far fewer overheads, none of that pesky "due process" nonsense, no having to explain to a judge why you detained a person. Plus the always-present threat of "do what we tell you, or we'll ruin your life". This is much closer to the wild-west form of justice, or of knights of olde England who were trusted with "the right to bear arms and mete justice" with a similar lack of control.

    Maybe what we need is some public awareness that the police do not have the right, nor the ability to label a person as a criminal just by arresting them. Only once the legal process has been applied and guilt proven, can a person be discriminated against. Not on the say-so of some plod with a bad attitude.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    This'll be the same Durham Police...

    ... where an officer stopped me (aged 18 and fully licensed and insured) six times for the same allegedly faulty brake lights at the same location (I was driving according to the content of "Roadcraft - a Police driving manual", ie. engine braking, no harsh braking or acceleration) by the same officer.

    The joy of having my solicitor friend in the vehicle with me on the 7th occasion :-)

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Me too, long time ago

      Yeah I got stopped under similar circumstances waaaaay back in the 1980s. I drove my car most of the way from the M54 to Chester on the A41 and was pulled over on suspicion of faulty brake lights. In my case though the officer apologised as he'd seen my lights come on when I stopped in the layby. A quick check then and there to show it wasn't a fluke and he was happy. He was polite, I took it as a complement and that was that.

      It was a good job I saw him behind me actually. I used to drive that road like a demon possessed. Still didn't need my brakes mind but I don't think Mr. Plod would be quite so polite and friendly.

    2. Rob

      Wrong planet

      Haven't you heard, on this planet, in this country, everyone is guilty until proven otherwise.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Numbers and Letters

      Don't get the bit about the solicitor. IME most solicitors have a very narrow knowledge of the law based on their own area of specialisation. Unless of course your solicitor friend happened to specialize in the Road Traffic Act and Construction and Use Regulations.

      It is perfectly legal for an officer of the law to stop you in order to check your vehicle *IF* they have reason to believe that the vehicle has a defect that would make it illegal. I'm sure your solicitor friend would know this.

      And on the subject of engine braking. It is not a good idea to decelerate sharply without the use of the brakes. It is dangerous because a folowing driver would not easilly notice you were slowing. You would know this had you read Roadcraft properly.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge


        for this reason I was taught to tap the break slightly when using the engine to break. Just to light up the breaking lights

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A pointer, if interested

          When they pull you over, don't wait for them to come to you, get out of your car or off your bike and go to them, and ask how you can help. iow take control. Assuming you have sufficient self assurance to want to take control.

          1. Steve Roper

            Re: A pointer, if interested

            In Australia, where I live, getting out of your car to meet the cops when pulled over is the normal and expected thing to do anyway. But if you do that in America you're well on your way to having guns pointed in your face and screamed at to "GET ON THE GROUND NOW!". As my mate found out when he went to the States about 10 years ago and made the mistake of getting out of his car when he got pulled over...

  11. Neil Stansbury


    Unfortunately, the Police never seem to engage their brains enough to realise, that if they are tasked with "protecting, helping and reassuring the community" then that includes protecting ALL aspects of the indiviual - including their human rights as equally as any other right - be it of life, limb or property.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Missing the point?

    I may be mistaken (apologies if so) but what the article seems to be aiming for is stating something along lines of: once you are on police or criminal records whether guilty or not in real terms your employment prospects will be grossly reduced as most serious employment opportunities will have some questions about the "police" in your life.

    Those with access to records will see a record. Those with no access to records probably will not want to take on the risk (even HR ?)

    It then uses controlled substances to show an example but I'd guess that the police know far, far, far more than they can say and are using a timid one as a means of demonstration of the phenomena.

  13. Steven Jones

    "one molecule different"

    "its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy"

    I'm not sure how this makes any sense at all - both mephedrone and ecstasy (MDMA) are molecules. Whilst they are related, they are distinctly more than one atom different as well, so the relationship is not the same as that between CO2 and CO.

    (MDMA comes in a right- and left- handed form, although the chemical formula of both is, of course, identical - ecstasy will be a mixture of both forms).

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    the biggest problem isnt' getting a job but it's traveling out of the country when the police "accidently" put the wrong flag against your profile (instead of the "innocent" tag they leave a "caution" or "convicted" type flag, meaning your ass ain't going anywhere without some serious explaining.)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Think some basic lessons in grammar may be in order here as I don't think the headline is justified by the Police statement. Leaving aside any issues on whether arrests in this circumstance are justified for now I think what the police are saying that if you are arrested then the consequences of that arrest are (a) you'll be taken to the cells and get your DNA sampled and (b) the fact that you've been arrested may harm your future. Note (b) is a consequence of the arrest and not the DNA sample. (As I'm half way through "the wire season 5" then I think a visit from some senior hack to deliver a lecture on the use of subordinate clauses etc may be in order).

    (again ignoring the issue of whether such an arrest is justified) the comment that being arrested may impact your future is clearly true ... if you were to apply of a job (or volunteer for something like scouts/sports club/etc) where you need an enhanced CRB check then it is likely to come back with a note that you were arrested on suspicion of possessing a control substance - I don't know the legalities on what weight a potential employer is allowed to place on this but in reality I'm sure its not going to make you more attractive to them.

    Finally, getting back to whether an arrest in this situation is justified ... this is the tricky one. Don't think the line that the police shouldn't arrest someone who says "its ok officer, this white powder isn't the illegal white powder, its the legal version" is going to work. Just the same as its likely that someone setting up a shop selling bird seed and tomato propgation kits is also likely to gather police interest.

  16. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    Put THEM on the database

    All police officers/politicians should have their DNA taken.

    1. Scott 19
      Thumb Down


      Thats the problem they have done nothing illegal however you lok at it, nothing at all, completely innocent and yet you still seem to think that it should affect the rest of there lives?

      If i'm wearing a trench coat and walk passed a school and i'm aressted on suspicion of being a pedo but it turns out i'm innocent should this then ruin the rest of my life?

      INNOCENT until proven guilty, so last centuary.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Great idea

      it'll help them prove that they're entirely innocent, let them screen officers from the analysis of a crime scene much easier and more reliably, and generally make policing that little bit more effective.

      And all MPs/candidates should have their DNA recorded for similar reasons- unless they've got something to hide? And, of course, they should be subject to near-constant testing for illegal drugs (or at least have sniffer dogs stationed at the entrances to their places of work) and have their internet traffic profiled thoroughly to make sure they don't have links to any... unBritish people.

      Also, I'd like to suggest that all government/council/police vehicles and travelling staff have to carry a GPS tracker while on official business (logged against an appropriate ID card and available freely online- well, you'd probably want to exclude some police vehicles from public view). This will stop them taking the piss and not turning up on time, help prevent theft, allow the prosecution of any of their staff members who stray even 1mph over the speed limit (which, as we know, automatically means you've run over a child), and will help ensure that our Civil Servants are acting as such.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      "Unfortunately, the Police never seem to engage their brains enough[...]"

      Everyone who's able to engage their brains don't apply to join the plod in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Everyone who's able to engage their brains don't apply to join the plod in the first place

        Have you ever seen how nervous most retired officers are? Many have their houses alarmed to the hilt, and never seem to venture out alone, a few simply refuse to venture out after dark.

  17. JMB

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    This seems a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The police seem to have little knowledge of chemistry but think they are experts.

    "If the police have to test something to show it is safe, then maybe they should arrest everyone and then just release the innocent!"

    In discussions and interview over topics like the police retaining DNA of innocent people it has obvious that they do not understand the concept of being innocent. As far as the police are concerned no one is innocent (except themselves of course) just not been convicted of anything yet.

  18. Eddie Edwards

    One molecule different?

    "its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy and as such dealers are claiming is not a controlled substance"

    I suspect they mean it has one additional atom in the molecule. Table salt is one molecule different from MDMA. Maybe we should all be arrested for that (it's a bit unhealthy, after all).

    Anyway are Durham police *asking* to be sued for wrongful arrest? "We decided that even though he wasn't committing a crime, we didn't like what he was doing, so we arrested him".

    This is why everyone aged 14-30 loves & respects the police so much.


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