Guilty Until Proven Guilty

In December last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the current legal framework for the UK DNA database was a violation of fundamental rights... the judges said they had been "struck by the blanket and indiscriminate nature" of the government's powers to take and keep DNA samples from anyone arrested (including those who are subsequently released without charge, or found not guilty in court). This ruling does not seem to have concerned our government a great deal.

It has taken them five months to come up with any response at all, and now that it is here it borders on contempt towards the court's December ruling. Our government proposes that instead of holding the DNA details of the innocent forever, it will instead... only hold them for up to 12 years.

I don't think there is a single person in the country who could read that December ruling and believe that our government has done anywhere near enough to address the very strongly-worded concerns expressed by the court. Instead of dealing with the fundamental issue of the inappropriateness of retaining any information about the innocent, they are instead fiddling with details such as assigning different legal values to innocence of a major crime and innocence of a minor crime - as if 'innocent' did not always mean 'innocent'. This is a blatant and infuriating attempt to dodge the real issues that were raised and hide them under a blanket of irrelevant distractions.

Our police should not be storing the details of innocent people and using these as their first port of call when investigating new crimes. Being a suspect in a previous investigation does not make you guilty. Being arrested and later released does not make you guilty. Being found Not Guilty by a court does not (surprise surprise!) make you guilty. If these things made you guilty, we wouldn't need a DNA database, nor much of a police force - the government could just round up anyone that they thought looked a bit dodgy and have them shot in the street.

Still, perhaps that will be the subject of next week's Home Office consultation - A Proposal To Reduce Policing Costs By Rounding Up And Shooting People We Don't Like The Look Of. At this point I'd only be mildly surprised.

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Checking the facts...
Posted by denny (212.49.xx.xx) on Wed 27 May 2009 at 16:37 [ Send Message | View Weblogs ]

Channel4 FactCheck take a quick look at the government's DNA/crime-solving claims.

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