back to article Home Office jumps the gun on DNA research

The single most significant piece of research cited by the government in its review of current DNA practice was incomplete and published prematurely following pressure from the Home Office. This inconvenient undermining of the consultation process came to light as the BBC did some background research into the issue, following …


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  1. BD 1

    Not even proof-read

    Ben Goldacre was utterly scathing about the Jill Bando Institute report.

    Quote <This research was incomprehensible and unreadable.> is typical.

    It would seem that the report is not just premature but not even proof-read. A fine basis for government policy.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    my next step is clear then!

    I'm going to start a statistics gathering company much like Gartner and all these others.... statistical maths can already be made to show whatever you like when you apply some clever maths to it, so now with the field completely open to made up stuff i think it can only be a win win for a government gravy train based company.

  3. Tom 15


    What the hell is the point of the research? Of course the crime for which a person is first caught is not necessarily going to be the same crime (or worst crime) that they will commit next time? You wouldn't want to keep committing the same crimes... you'd end up awfully typecast.

  4. nichomach

    Anyone else detecting a nasty undercurrent?

    I've noted that even in interviews on R4 there appears to be a general buying in to the idea that people who have been arrested, had their DNA taken and then been released - i.e. innocent people - ought to have their DNA stored in case they, and note the choice of verb here, "re-offend". If they haven't been convicted of, or admitted and been cautioned for, an offence then legally they didn't offend in the first place, so how can they be "re-offending"? The phrasing is being used often enough, however, that it appears to be deliberate; the implication seeming to be made that if you weren't guilty of something, they wouldn't have nicked you.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LIE: 52% of innocent people go onto to commit crime in 6 years.

    The key claim was that 52% of people arrested but released without action, or found innocent, go on to commit a crime within 6 years... and here's some of the crimes they could go on to commit, rape, murder, terrorism.... It sounds very convincing, and there was a sciency paper by a famous name charity.

    Claim point 2.8:" The JDI research shows that 52% of re-offending happens within six years".

    (Notice the word 'reoffending' used to describe people not guilty of anything.)

    But it's not true, simply a pure fabrication of data, an the Home Office knows the real data. Because they can pull prior arrest records of people convicted of crimes for which the DNA was pivotal. Read it, the Home Office DID pull the data and found no benefit.

    As Jacqui Smith said:

    "In 2007-08, 17,614 crimes were detected in which a DNA match was available. They included 83 homicides, 184 rapes and a further 15,420 additional detections"

    How many of those 17614 crimes came from only the DNA samples of people previously arrested but found innocent of crime? One!, the Home Office found one. "KENSLEY LARRIER", which was given as the example to the Jill Dando Institute and quoted in the paper.


    Now hold on a second, read what Jacqui Smith said again, and read what the JDI paper says again. Page 33, look at the graph.

    This graph shows that "Percentage of subsequent criminality lost by retention period". It does not say "52% of re-offending happens within six years". Look at 6 years, notice that at 6 years 52% OF THE PEOPLE WHO GO ON TO COMMIT A CRIME, have *NOT* yet committed that crime.

    Think about it this way, 1000000 people arrested and found innocent, 20 commit a crime sometime in future. If you deleted the evidence at year 0, then 20 people would not have their DNA available for checking (100% of 20). If you deleted it at year 6, 53% of 20 = 10, would not yet have commit a crime and 10 would have already committed their crime.

    i.e. 10/1000000 go onto commit a crime within 5 years.

    IT SAYS THE EXACT OPPOSITE. What Jacqui Smith said was not just a lie, her preface didn't even match the report. The reports authors, must know what she said was a deception and said nothing they let the deception pass.

    How many of those 10 is the DNA pivotal? i.e. as opposed to arresting them, then checking the DNA the destroying the DNA? Since DNA checking doesn't stop rozzer using DNA as evidence it just stops random searches and other 'analysis' uses*

    Zero, actually ONE, but they had to go back to 2002 to get that example, but the stats covered 2 years since 2007.

    So the numbers are there and known and they don't support the conclusion Jacqui LIAR Smith claimed. And her words are there, if only you take time to read what a liar she is.

    * And now we have the EU research on predicting criminality (from elReg the other week), and I bet the asshole will take the DNA samples and try to correlate them to crime.

  6. Catkins

    JDI - not exactly a credible institution

    The Jill Dando Institute would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous. It's hosted by University College London (UCL) which is one of the top institutions in the country. It's stated remit is to reduce crime "through teaching, research, public policy analysis and by the dissemination of EVIDENCE-BASED INFORMATION (ha ha) on crime reduction".

    And now it's Head comes out and says they had no direct access to the evidence, did no statistical checks, and the report was crap. Academic rigor?

    Despite all this they felt they had "no option' but to publish under pressure from the government in order to push Home Office policy. Academic independence?

    However the academic community already knew the JDI work was a load of old tosh. Professor Shelia Bird, Vice President of the Royal Statistical Society looked at the JDI figures a few months ago and dismissed them as “a travesty of both statistical science and logical thinking”.

    If Jeremy Bentham wasn't dead and decapitated, he'd have his head in his hands.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jacqui Smith Sexual offences and sex establishments

    And lets read the other one:

    "53A Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc. A person (A) commits an offence if: A makes or promises payment for the sexual services of a prostitute (B), 35 (b) a third person (C) has used force, deception or threats of a kind likely to induce or encourage B to provide the sexual services for which A has made or promised payment, and C acted for or in the expectation of gain for C or another person (apart from A or B)."

    "The following are irrelevant— where in the world the sexual services are to be provided and whether those services are provided whether A is, or ought to be, aware that C has used force, deception or threats."

    I am staggered, absolutely staggered.

    "Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc."

    *Paying* is the crime here, it is committed if they had sex or not. It says 'etc.', the crime is committed even if the person *isn't* subject to force, if they were falsely promised a puppy for Christmas it is committed, this crime is so wide.

    'A' has no defence against this, *not* having sex with the girl is *not* a defence.

    *Not* knowing is *not* a defence.

    If he goes with a prostitute and suspects she is under duress and leaves, he cannot even report it to the police, because he is guilty of a criminal offence and to report it is a confession.

    Jacqui Smith again, it's one thing for man hating idiot to be placed in a job where she can do harm, but what was the rest of the MPs doing, allowing this?

  8. Catkins

    Diane Abbott

    Oh, and Diane Abbott is a big ruddy hypocrite. Whilst there has never been a specific Commons vote on keeping innocents on the database, which is in itself worrying, she's always voted with the government when it comes to extending the database's reach (Criminal Justice Act 2003 etc). Black people are now disproportionally represented amongst the 850,000 innocents on the database and one in four black kids are on there. She represents Hackney and there's a general election coming up. Work it out.

  9. Graham Marsden

    'you might as well just stick your finger in the air and think of a number'".

    So, just like all other Government statistics, then...

  10. ian 22
    Big Brother


    Oh thank God. I had a nightmare that I had been born with a bar code tattooed across my forehead. What? Oh, wait...

    Big Brother with a smile, obviously. Hehehe.

  11. Jeff Deacon

    Poppy's comment

    I'm afraid that I read Poppy's comment to indicate that the Home Office knew their policy was a bit light on fact when they launched it first, so they invented/reinforced the Poppy Institute to give it a cloak of respectability before the Bill got to its Third Reading!

    Of course, I could be cynical.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Not much chance of dumping Diane Abbot.

    She polled 7427 ahead of the Lib Dems at #2 on a 49.6% turnout.

    257 days max to go.

  13. Martin 6 Silver badge

    Diane Abbott and UCL

    A friend who is a biochemist at UCL did once say about the police collecting DNA evidence that it would be fantastic for her research. She figured that within a few years the police would have taken samples of every afro-Caribbean person in London and there would be a fantastic data set to check for genetic diseases.

    Apparently there used to be a great resource of blood samples from millions of the descendants of a certain middle eastern country thanks to the efforts of a previous (national) socialist government. That did help to chase down the origins of a few diseases but they were eventually ordered to be destroyed.

  14. David Pollard

    Future Proof?

    From the outset it was clear that DNA profiling is a powerful forensic technique and likely to lead to the resolution of a number of cold cases. But it would be a mistake to base future estimates of its effectiveness, either for detection or as a deterrent, on this precedent. Criminals will adapt.

    Crimes of passion and acts of madness or martyrdom will presumably continue at much the same rate. But the NDNAD is likely to make some crime worse. In a proportion of violent crimes, including those of rape and murder for which such strong benefits are claimed for DNA profiling, the perpetrators will be more likely to take the precaution of ensuring that the bodies of their victims are never found.

  15. Steve Roper

    re: Jacqui Smith Sexual offences and sex establishments

    Not only is not knowing not a defence, but as you point out:

    "...where in the world the sexual services are to be provided..."

    That means if you travel to a country where prostitution is perfectly legal and culturally acceptable, such as China, and have sex with a prostitute there, on entering the UK you can be arrested under UK law even though you were in FUCKING CHINA!

    Now when countries start applying their laws to your actions in other countries that have nothing to do with them, that's complete fucking bollocks. So, a warning to Chinese: If you've ever had sex with a prostitute, DO NOT VISIT THE UK. YOU WILL BE ARRESTED FOR DOING WHAT IS PERFECTLY LEGAL IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY. Stay in China. You have more freedom there.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home Secretaries in general

    Why is anyone surprises by this.

    The third most powerful position in the country is given to the biggest toady that the Prime Minister of the day has.

    When will Labour stop thinking that they can win the next election and therefore stop trying to out-tory the tories

  17. Dan 10
    Big Brother

    Hang on...

    Morning all!

    "As a result, a policy which only retained profiles where an individual was arrested for a serious or violent offence (as applies, for example, in Scotland) would risk missing numerous detections."

    Doesn't this suggest that the JDI are advocating keeping all profiles for longer, as opposed to deleting the profiles of those arrested for less serious offences?

    I also noticed the use of the word "re-offending", which by definition says that they believe you were guilty the first time round, but just couldn't prove it. Innocent my ar$e!

  18. David Mery

    Quality? What quality?

    The HO is happy with the quality of the DNA consultation. Extract from

    "Thank you for your email (below) which highlighted the concerns you had on the DNA consultation document. You believed the consultation had not followed Criterion 3 of the Government's Code of Practice on Consultation.

    Under Criterion 3 of the Code consultation documents should be clear about the consultation process, what is being proposed, the scope to influence and the expected costs and benefits. In this respect we believe the consultation document meets that Criterion."

    From my reading of the JDI report, its main analysis was based on 18 cases. Extract from

    "One annex is an independent report by Professor Ken Pease of the Jill Dando Institute titled DNA Retention after S and Marper. The data in the text and the tables don't match, but if you put that aside and try to figure out what was likely meant you soon realise that there's little to support the Home Office. First key data is about those re-arrested within three specified periods. Let's skip the fact that the "data underwent substantial and lengthy editing" to exclude irrelevant categories and "on the basis of lack of clarity as to the case outcome". After all this editing, the data appear to come from 532 cases from three samples in June over three consecutive years (either 1994-1996, according to the table, or 2004-2006, according to the text). However, an attentive reader will spot: "Given that data came only from the first of a month, and aware that errors of estimation will be magnified by multiplying the figures to give a monthly total...", so this data is in fact an estimation based on approximately 18 cases (532 divided by the number of days in June) taken over three days at one year interval, or 7, 8 and 3 samples for the respective days. And even among these few cases, one day may have to be discounted as a footnote explains: "The writer was concerned by the smaller number of cases in 2004. His best guess is that the date fell on the day following a Bank Holiday." (This is also a hint indicating that the text is right as May 31st was Spring bank holiday in 2004. This erroneous table is repeated in the main consultation document.)"

    br -d

  19. Nebulo
    Big Brother

    More doublespeak

    H.O.: "Last year a total of 17,614 crimes ... were detected in which a DNA match was available."

    "Available" doesn't mean "Essential".

    What proportion of these 17,614 crimes could have been "detected" (? - maybe even solved) in anycase, with no recourse to universal, intrusive DNA databases?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Governance by...


  21. nsld
    Paris Hilton

    I commented on the DNA consultation...

    The interesting thing was the use of Sally Bowman as an example of how great the DNA database was, what they forgot to mention was that the match did not come from an existing record of an innocent person but from when the guy was arrested for assualt and a sample taken and compared to existing crime scene profiles and this was some time later.

    I pointed out that it was wrong to preface a report on the retention of DNA of the unconvicted using a headline grabbing story which actually proved that the storing of unconvicted peoples DNA had no relevance in solving the crime. The story was used simply because the victim had a good PR spin.

    Interestingly the ever resourceful plod arrested and DNA'd the postman as his prints where on the door so he was "at the scene", under the new and illegal guidelines his DNA will be kept for 12 years as it was an arrest for a serious crime in case he re offends again.

    As for the Jill Dando Institute report, its drivel of the highest order and makes no sense even without the admission that it is drivel and makes no sense. I would suggest that the higher scientific bodies should be looking to strike off any of those involved in publishing it.

    Paris, more credible than the JDI

  22. Anonymous Coward

    The answer is obvious...

    Get busy... the El Reg Research Institute should start pumping out is, ahem, research in the form of official reports with press releases to government ministers. Forget what the commentards want to hear, they don't decide policy. However, if you're short of any material to go in the report, I'm sure the readers here could oblige.

  23. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

    You think that's dodgy behaviour, what about this?

    My brother - six foot two in his socks, skinny as a rake, balding and 20-something at the time - was invited to take part in an identity parade where the suspect was a long-haired, barrel-shaped five foot nothing "gentle"man of over 50 years...

    Baby bro' was also asked if he would provide a DNA sample as well - just for the identity parade, honest(!!). Luckily he said "no" as he was just going back to work but I shudder to think what might have happened if he had not had a "valid" reason to be out on the streets during the day...

  24. RichyS

    Re.: my next step is clear then!

    @Jeremy 3.

    Why did you use the 'Joke Alert' icon>

  25. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Obi Wan Laycock

    Gloria Laycock, Director of the JeDI, waves her hand magically and says

    “These are not the statistics you are looking for”

    All “These are not the statistics we are looking for”

  26. Anonymous Coward

    We all know the are more dangerous

    I love the suggestion that people who are accused but innocent of having committed a serious crime are more of a threat than those accused but innocent of having committed a minor crime.

    I sometimes feel like the whole bleeding country has taken leave of it's reasoning senses. Is the country really degenerating into a nation of thought sheep, each incapable of any reasoning at all?


  27. EvilGav 1

    @ Steve Roper

    Errr, what makes you think that prostitution is legal in China ?

    Yes, it happens in huge numbers, at pretty much every hotel in the country, however it is not legal.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    What's happened to universities in this country

    Are there no academics left who are both competant and honest? All of this government propaganda is supported by dodgy research, usually associated, however loosely, with some major University. Why do these institutions allow themselves to be used in this way?

    Anyone remember the mad speed camera compaign that claimed 40% reduction in accidents where cameras were sited? Regression to the mean, that's all it was. What self-respecting academic would allow their names any where near such a shoddy piece of work?

  29. Catkins

    And the Home Office response is....

    The Home Office used the JDI 'research' to assert that those who were arrested but proved innocent were in reality as criminal as those who were convicted. It was the core piece of 'evidence' in their recent consultation document on the matter.

    The JDI has now completely and publicly disowned this data. As of this morning the response of the Home Office and NPIA is.........nothing. Nada. Not a word.

    However the Home Office website does boast that they've now got 5.2% of the population on there. and developing it further it one of the government's top priorities.

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