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    Guardian (UK): Police to continue to hold DNA of innocent people

    The Guardian reports that the UK Home Office “ministers confirmed they want to see the DNA profiles of innocent people kept on the national database for six years, after failing to persuade parliament to back a longer period of up to 12 years for the most serious offences.” Also, the ministers said “in the case of those arrested under terrorism legislation or national security provisions,” those individuals’ “DNA profiles will in future be kept indefinitely.”

    Here’s some background: Last December, the European Court of Human Rights made the decision (pdf) that said that retaining innocent individuals’ genetic data in the UK National DNA Database was a violation of human rights, specifically “the right to respect for his private and family life” set out in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf). The decision affects individuals age 10 or older who have been acquitted or had charges against them dropped after their arrest in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

    The Home Office then said it would revise its policies. As of September 2008, the UK National DNA Database contained genetic profiles and linked DNA samples from 4.5 million individuals. As of March 2008, “857,366 people on the National DNA Database did not have a current criminal record,” according to a UK official.

    In May, the Guardian reported that UK police were going to destroy 800,000 profiles in the national DNA database. Profiles to be destroyed “include people who have been arrested and never charged, and those taken to court but found not guilty.”

    Now, the Home Office ministers “are expected to introduce their revised package of measures on the DNA database as part of a policing and crime bill in next week’s Queen’s speech. [...] The proposal is more onerous than the original package, which proposed a 12-year limit for terrorism suspects who are freed without charge or later cleared.”

    The proposed DNA regulations would apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the time limits would only apply to the innocent. Convicted adults would remain in the DNA database for life, the Guardian said.

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    One Response to “Guardian (UK): Police to continue to hold DNA of innocent people”

    1. DrPDNA Says:

      I welcome the Home Office decision to cut the time in which innocent people DNA profiles are stored on the national DNA database from twelve to six years. It is a step in the right direction.

      The main advantage of the DNA database is to search of a matching DNA profile of a suspect compared with DNA found at the crime scene. Thus the police will be in a much better position to solve crimes, especially those cases in which there is no obvious leads and identify individuals whom are repeatedly involved in criminal activities.

      However, the main opposition to DNA databases is that people do not simply trust the police to hold vital biological information on DNA databases. There are examples to support this statement. The police have previously violated family privacy because the database had indicated a closely related profile. The police will investigate other family members to determine if there is a complete match of DNA profiles. In one such case, UK police had abused its power by apprehending the brother of a suspect, whom later was charged and convicted for a crime because he would not reveal the whereabouts of his brother. Another example, there is a disproportionate representation of minority groups on the DNA database, thus civil liberties more likely be violated because of the use of discriminatory practices to obtain DNA data. (Read the Robert Watters case in the book “Errors, Systematic Errors and DNA” and chapter 4).

      Unless a corrective mechanism is employed to stop these types of abuses of civil liberties and privacy matters, many individuals will continually oppose of having their biological information stored on the DNA database.

      DrPDNA

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