The Association of Chief Police Officers website has now published the
There is little in this report which addresses the privacy and security worries which we have about the unprecedented growth of this National DNA Database.
This report actually lists the main recommendations of the various independent reviews of DNA database policy over the years. It then goes on to reject all the most important privacy safeguards that Parliamentary Committees and others have recommended.
The third strategic objective of the National DNA Database is:
3. To maintain public confidence in the security and integrity of The National DNA Database and its use
This is something which the Home Office, the Police and the National DNA Database Board have failed to do in regard to the DNA profiles and tissue samples of children and of adults and children who have not been charged or convicted of a crime or who have volunteered a DNA sample for whatever reason.
One other area of concern which has not had much media attention is
Consent for DNA samples to be used for research purpose
The legislation specifies that any sample taken under PACE can be used for purposes related to the prevention and detection of crime. No consent is required for the taking of most samples and no separate consent is
required for the samples and any data derived from the samples to be used for these legitimate purposes.
The Board thus sees no need to request consent for the DNA samples to be used for research purposes.
This refers to the re-analysis of actual full DNA tissue samples, not just the processed 12 point SGM Plus "DNA fingerprint" data.
Another controversial area:
Ability of volunteers to withdraw consent for their profiles to be added to The National DNA Database
The rationale for not permitting a volunteer to withdraw their consent to their profile being retained on The National DNA Database is to avoid a return to the situation prior to the CJPA, where consent had been given and then withdrawn, but for whatever reason the profile remained on the Database and it was found to match that taken from a crime scene, leading to arguments as to the admissibility of such evidence in subsequent criminal proceedings.
Note the presumption of guilt by volunteers
Surely seems perfectly reasonable that people who might have volunteered a DNA sample. might wish to withdraw their permission, after the particular case in which they were helping to catch a suspect has been concluded ?
The information held on the Database is only used if a stored sample is matched with a sample recovered from a crime scene. As with individuals acquitted of an offence for which DNA was taken and those whose prosecutions are not proceeded with, a law abiding person has nothing to fear from having their profile on the Database.
Only if the people operating the system are ethical and can be trusted.
Why should individual citizens trust the Government and the private sector with their very personal data, when there are no criminal sanctions against such abuse by petty bureaucrats ?
Value of retaining in The National DNA Database profiles from persons who have not been prosecuted or have been acquitted
There is a need to balance the interests of society against the right to privacy of the individual and the Government believes that that balance should be tipped in favour of the victims of crime and the protection of individuals against crime. In this respect, the Government firmly believes that the measures taken to retain the samples and fingerprints of persons who have been arrested, albeit not prosecuted or convicted, for a recordable offence are proportionate and justified. That view has been thoroughly tested and supported by the Law Lords in the case of R v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire ex parte S and Marper.
Although it was acknowledged that some persons who have not been convicted of an offence sometimes felt aggrieved that this biometric information is retained, the Law Lords in the quoted case rejected the suggestion that this group of people are somehow stigmatised as a result. Persons who do not go on to commit an offence have no reason to fear the retention of this information.
Rubbish ! The Government has given no assurances whatsoever that, for example, the DNA samples and profiles collected from the victims and other innocent passengers at the crime scenes of the London Tube and Bus bomb attacks in July 2005, is not forever going to be retained and linked in terrorist suspect database lists, which are then around the world to other police and intelligence agencies, without any background explanatory information.
This is not a direct risk due to the core National DNA Database itself, but of its automatic data sharing links with the Police National Computer and with other systems through which genetic profile data is linked.
How many victims and innocent travellers will be tagged as "possible terrorist co-conspirators" as a result ?
It is estimated that there are roughly 186,900 records from different individuals on the Database that would have been removed under the legislation prior to the CJPA . To date, the Database has been able to link some 7,591 (5%) of these individuals to approximately 10,754 offences. These include 88 murders, 45 attempted murders, 116 rapes, 62 other sexual offences, 91 aggravated burglaries, 94 the supply of controlled drugs and a number of serious assaults. It is not known how many of these might otherwise have gone undetected
The report (and the Parliamentary Answers which repeat these statistics) is very carefully worded not to make the direct claim that all of these figures refer to crimes which would not otherwise have been solved by other means, but that is the impression that it seeks to portray.
However, viewed in percentage terms, over the period of operation of the NDNAD, these are a statistically insignificant number of crimes relating to "innocent " DNA profiles., given the hundreds of murders, and tens of thousands of rapes, out of the tens of millions of crimes over that period.
This is hardly surprising since the report also says:
Although having a very significant impact where it is used, The National DNA Database only features in about 0.8% of all criminal investigations. There are a relatively small number of crime scenes from which DNA samples can be recovered, and even where it could be recovered it may not be relevant (e.g. DNA is of very little value where the identity of the suspect is not in doubt and the issue is otherwise, such as alleged consensual intercourse or rape).
"Am I my brother's keeper ?"
Yer another other controversial topic is that of
A one-off speculative search approach is also used for conducting familial searches of the Database to identify offenders through possible close relatives of an offender whose profile is not on the Database.
The Office of the Information Commissioner has no way in which to ban such searches, given the loopholes in the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act for "the prevention or detection of crime"
However, they commented that such use of the data is intrusive and has the potential to raise embarrassing and awkward questions which may relate to sensitive issues unrelated to policing, such as paternity, which had not previously been in doubt.
Since there are no criminal sanctions available against any officious bureaucrat who does instigate a speculative familal DNA search, or any easy way to tell if one has been conducted against your family, then the assurances about Codes of Best Practice are simply not good enough., and must be strengthened.
Remember, that with Familial DNA database trawling, not everybody in the whole country needs to be on the NDNAD, only one person per family, for the whole population to be treated as criminal suspects.
UPDATE: Adam Holloway, the Conservative MP for Gravesham in Kent, secured (by lottery) an Adjournement debate on Thursday 30th March 2006 on the topic of National DNA Database, which meant that Home Office Minister Andy Burnham had the opportunity to quote the same dubious statistics about the alleged justification for retaining innocent people's data on the database. He made no justification for retating innocent people's physical Human Tissue Samples as opposed to the DNA profiles on the database..
Andy Burnham did claim that the Government had no plans for putting the DNA of everyone in the country onto the current system, but neglected to mention the Familail DNA specultaive database trawling which only needs one identifiable person per family on the system to make evetyone into a suspect.
He also repeated the claim that
There is no material disadvantage or cost to the individual simply from being on the national DNA database—it is not a criminal record. A cost arises only if a further crime is committed.
This neglects the whole issue of secret re-sampling of DNA tissue samples for scientific and possibly commercial research, without the express informned consent of the people from whom theose samples were obtained. Some of this research will be anonymised , but some may well be commercial research with the aim, perhaps of selling improved DNA testing kits or equipment, and possibly for other lucrative biotech product development.
The people whose DNA has been used for such commercial product development should be entitled to be informed thatthis is happening, and to a share of the profits.
We we really like to believe what Andy Burnham was claiming about "no ulterior motive" and "openness" and "public debate", but after the way in which he has twisted spurious statistics, , manipulated the press and the media, personally attacked the integrity of independent academics and others who are far better informed on technical issues than himself, etc. over the Identity Cards national database scheme, we simply do not trust him or his Labour colleagues.