No Way DNA!

Un-convicted rapists, murderers and thieves are rejoicing at a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that has stated DNA and fingerprints taken from two South Yorkshire men when they were arrested should not have been retained when they were subsequently released from police custody without being charged.

‘This is a victory for liberty,’ remarked Bryn, a heavy goods driver from Barrow-in-Furness, button-holed at the Woolley Edge service station this afternoon where he was stopping off to buy a Yorkie and some new plastic tie wraps. ‘I can sleep soundly tonight. My nights have been plagued by worries that I’d left a squirt of my baby gravy on some young lass’s corpse and the bobbies were going to track me down.’

The court ruled that in retaining the samples the UK had: ‘failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests and had overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation in this regard.’

Since 2001 anyone arrested in England and Wales has had their DNA sampled, fingerprints rolled out and other personal information noted down. This information has been retained regardless of whether or not the individual was later charged with an offence or not. In regards to DNA samples are generally taken in the form of mouth swabs. The swabs are obtained whilst an individual is in custody, sent off to the lab, information extracted and a DNA profile of that individual stored on a national database. This information is routinely checked against DNA recovered from past, present and future crime scenes.

The court has ruled this to be wrong where a person is not charged.

Liberty’s Director
Shami Chakrabarti said: ‘[The] Court has used human rights principles and common sense to deliver the privacy protection of innocent people that the British Government has shamefully failed to deliver.’

Common sense? In what way can throwing information away ever be held to be common sense? Common sense, as the Oxford Dictionary states, implies ‘good sense and sound judgement in practical matters’. How is it practical not to know something?

And in what way does storing DNA breach privacy? OK, it is unique information about an individual. But what exactly does DNA on the database tell you about anybody’s life? Is it like a diary that can be read? CCTV footage that can be peeped at? Does a list get published as to whose information is stored? Is this information disclosable to prospective employers? To universities? To partners? Does having the sample taken brand you physically? No. No one knows. It lies dormant, simply stating who you are if necessary.

The court said: ‘The capacity of DNA profiles to provide a means of identifying genetic relationships between individuals was in itself sufficient to conclude that their retention interfered with the right to the private life of those individuals. The possibility created by DNA profiles for drawing inferences about ethnic origin made their retention all the more sensitive and susceptible of affecting the right to private life. The Court concluded that the retention of both cellular samples and DNA profiles amounted to an interference with the applicants’ right to respect for their private lives, within the meaning of Article 8.1 of the Convention.’

Article 8.1 covers the right to respect for private and family life and states: ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.’

Good grief. So ‘family life’ equates to ‘drawing inferences about ethnic origin’. Bloody hell, that’s a bit slim. And when are these inferences going to be drawn and by whom? To what purpose? We are not living in Nazi Germany. We are not gathering information for the Final Solution. No one is interested in ethnicity, except for Home Office bean counters.

Speaking to the
Yorkshire Post, Leeds solicitor Simon McKay claimed the system was open to abuse, saying: ‘It’s easy to see a situation where samples of white middle-class youths are not held because they are deemed to come from decent backgrounds, whereas black teenagers from broken homes end up staying on.’ Rubbish. The frequently amended Race Relations Act blankets any activity in this area far better than the Human Rights Act. If anything, given the present state of unbalanced and divisive race relations, the opposite practice is probably more likely.

What i
t comes down to is which you value as most important, the protection of your privacy or the protection of your safety? I’m quite happy for my DNA, my fingerprints, any information to be stored. But the government want to compare your DNA against every crime scene in the UK! So what? Why should that worry me? If I’ve done nothing wrong I have nothing to fear. Oh, you’re so naïve.

What else is the government going to do with the information? The only comparison that will only ever be made is against DNA recovered from crime scenes. Does the sample taken match with this DNA from a rape? A murder? A burglary? No. Fair enough. Why would anyone other than the guilty or someone obsessed with conspiracy theories object to that?

Some solicitors argue that there is ‘a stigma’ of being included on the database. How does that work then? You’ve already been arrested. That won’t alter. But let’s address the point. If perhaps the only stigma arises not from the fact that the samples are held but how they are collected. From the fact that the samples are only taken when someone is arrested. The arrest is a trigger. And to have your sample taken at this time and for this reason puts you in the same boat as a stack of criminals when you weren’t charged with an offence at all. That’s the stigma. All right. The fact is that the present method of collection is nothing more than convenient. It isn’t designed to stigmatise people. It makes sense that the police get hold of the information from people who are brought to their attention. So maybe the only solution is to extend the database to include everyone.

Big Brother!

The Human Rights Act has turned into a stick to beat public authorities with. Liberal pedants twist the spirit of the Human Rights Act until it only serves to protect the interest of those doing wrong. What is the point of passing laws if we aren’t going to use the best available tools to detect breaches of them? And DNA is effective. Since 2004 fifty-three murders, thirty-three attempted murders and ninety-four rapes have been detected through DNA samples that, under this ruling, would have been destroyed. I get the feeling that we’re in freefall. Like pedigree dogs our ideals have been taken to extremes. That we have sociological anorexia. We look in the mirror and only see what we want to see. Apparent imperfections that we can right. So we starve to extremes.

Civil Liberties in the UK is an academic exercise. A balloon debate. At best acting as a Devil’s Advocate. And listening to the debate, sat in his cell
James Lloyd, the so-called ‘Shoe Rapist’ must be furious. Lloyd was convicted in 2006 for several offences of rape committed between 1983 and 1986. Police had been stumped with the investigation until a relative of Lloyd’s was arrested for drink driving. Her DNA was profiled and provided a familial match to semen samples recovered from rape victims twenty years previously. Links were investigated and Lloyd – who had no previous convictions – was tracked down. Thanks to DNA. So which would you prefer – your DNA lying dormant on a database or James Lloyd on the loose?



  1. GSmudger · December 16, 2008

    Bravo. At the risk of sounding like FlamingCross, this is yet another example of the self-absorbed middle-classes and meretricious lawyers campaigning for a woolly concept of freedom without regard to the overall good of society. The judiciary in this case have been every bit as craven and doltish as the kind of local authority dullards who consider Christmas decorations offensive to Buddhists. The sad truth is that certain libertarians would rather have rapists on the loose than some abstract code on a secure database, provided the rapist is hurting someone they don’t know.


  2. deleted user · December 16, 2008

    The real problem is that the Human Rights Act is such a badly drafted piece of legislation that it leaves too much room for judges to make entirely subjective decisions based on their own, usually liberal, political leanings.

    The European Convention on Human Rights, when drafted in the aftermath of World War Two, was a noble project, aimed at guaranteeing a non-negotiable set of fundamental freedoms, so that no one would suffer the kind of persecution meted out to the Jews and other minorities in that conflict.

    Fast forward sixty years and Liberty and the rest of the hairy armpit mob seem only to be interested in protecting the rights of those people in society who prey on the rest of us, safe in the knowledge they will never be on the receiving end of such behaviour.

    There is no such thing as universal human rights. We are not born with these things imprinted on our DNA. They are a construct of western democracy.

    I weep for the future.


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