Sunday, October 09, 2011

It's in our their DNA

Over at Orphans of Liberty, Longrider lists a good number of ways in which this government—supposedly devoted to civil liberties—has utterly failed to curb the state's intrusion into the most personal aspects of our lives.

There's one particular part that I want to touch on, and that is the retention of DNA.
The retention of the DNA of innocent people is illegal. It took the European court to tell the previous shower that it is illegal. I was not surprised when Labour chose to ignore the ruling. I cannot say I am over surprised that the current lot are doing likewise. Forget all that stuff about the Human Rights legislation, it is a basic violation of the individual to take something by force and to keep it on record when they are innocent of any crime.

I would go further—the police should not take DNA unless they are dealing with suspects of a crime. And, once the perpetrator of the crime has been established, they should destroy said DNA records.

When your humble Devil was done for drink-driving, back in February, the police took a DNA swab. Why?

They lifted me from my car, and breathalysed me. I was bang to rights, no doubt about that.

So why take a DNA sample? What possible motivation could they have for taking a DNA sample of a drink-driver whose guilt was beyond doubt—and who had entered a guilty plea at the station?

At this point, no doubt, someone will pop up and shout something about "nothing to hide, nothing to fear".

Except, of course, that there is. DNA is very far from being the unique identifier that people think it is—especially when the routine analyses are so imprecise. The amount of DNA that separates us from pigs is remarkably small (which is why they used to take insulin from pigs for diabetics); in actual fact, we are—genetically—not so far away from bananas.

When taking the whole of the human genome, the differences between individual humans is something like 0.1%.

Longrider is exercised by the idea that innocent people's DNA should be retained; I argue that, even if found guilty (especially if the suspect pleads guilty to the crime for which they have been arrested), the police should have no mandate to retain an individual's DNA.

I was arrested for a very specific crime. I pleaded guilty to that crime, both at the police station and in court. It was not a crime of violence, nor any one where it might be thought that I had committed others. That crime is the only one that I have admitted to in a court of law, or been accused of.

Why then should my DNA be held?


Anonymous said...

Is there something special about DNA?

Is it different from keeping finger prints---"just in case you commit a crime sometime in the future Sir" "Nothing to hide nothing to fear sir and it may help us hit our targets"

I will have difficulty putting this into words I think---but I really don't like the zeal of modern policing. It seems full of absolutes. Everyone guilty of every crime no matter how trivial has to be caught and punished. If they get a report of a gun being waved the "offender" has to end up dead. There is no wriggle room any more. No copper seems able to say "go home and sleep it off you big prat you are wasting my time" That would be a missed statistic.
Once upon a time people were exiled--now the long arm of the boys in yellow extends to every country to grab people who have exiled themselves. Absolutely. I was right I made a hash of expressing that. It just seems the police have declared war on non-police with the blessing of the government. It all seems very oppressive compared with what we were used to. Not much to like in modern life.
Oh well I feel a smidgen better now. Thank you for your blog.

Tomrat said...

DNA retention should be part of the sentence and when not consented to warranted by a judge. Simples - combine that with some democratic oversight over the judiciary and you keep the number of retentions low and specific enough to avoid the massive pitfalls of a false positive.

For the current tranche of retained DNA the law that amends the current law should also set up a judicial/Lord's board to sort who's DNA gets retained and who's doesn't; it should be given a few years to sort through it to ensure dangerous individuals with NuLabour's extraordinary low sentencing policies are at least monitored.

Simples really - place the honus on judicial reform on the judiciary and allow the demos to punish them when they get it wrong - without the thirst for liberal reform though this would be best sold as making the judiciary more accountable, not letting potential rapists and murderers wk the streets (people will forget that ultimately the reason they arent caught or are allowed out in the first place is down to the judges, not a lack of DNA on the database).

Alan Douglas said...

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear ?

No way. You can and should fear having to PROVE you have nothing to hide.

Alan Douglas

Roger Thornhill said...

Of course, DNA should be subject to reliable analysis, and the failure/error rate should be presented to juries.

The difference between DNA and fingerprints is that DNA can arrive at a scene without the individual being there. It could be blown onto clothes on a tube or from the street[1}[2]. A fingerprint is different, for it requires an explicit contact between the object and the individual.

I could see how the Police would want to retain DNA temporarily in a DISPUTED DD case - weren't me driving, guv - but not in one that was undisputed. I mean, who is going to be a fall guy for a driver to avoid them being caught a second time? hack-cough-huhne-cough.

The big problem with DNA at the moment is that, in the present consciousness and meme-scape, DNA "evidence" makes one have, to an extent, to prove one's innocence. That is not a good situation to be enabling the State to keep records of everyone's DNA, for the fishing expeditions and leaks will be beyond tempting and, for little people, few will bother with the follow-up when a rumour is proven false, but the damage to reputation has been absolute.

[1] Of course, if we are talking semen samples taken, naturally (one would hope!) this has not been able to find its way as part of a normal tube journey...

[2] I recall Labour had an ad where a criminal left chewing gum on a gatepost, as if that should be used as "evidence" of their involvement in a crime! Boggle.

Michael Fowke said...

Did you say to the police: "I assure you I'm not, officer. Honestly. I've only had a few ales." - ?

David Davis said...

When they have everybody's DNA, reliably copied in the fullness of time, they will be able to "turn off" entire families.

And Saddam Hussein thought HE was clever.

FlipC said...

@Anonymous - I'd be deemed a shedder of hair. So I'm sitting in a bus and leave a hair behind. The next person who sits in that spots may get it stuck to their coat.

They get murdered; forensics pull my hair; check it against the national database and match it against a record taken form some minor incident.

I get pulled in and questioned.

Try concocting that sequence using fingerprints.


Since the hospitals take a blood sample as a matter of course from every newborn,in the fulness of time they will have everyones dna anyway,but according to an foi request that i made last year,our good masters have absolutely no intention of taking dna samples from new born babies,believe that if you will.