UK Liberty

What the

Posted in DNA database, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 3, 2008

Reading some Uncorrected Oral Evidence given as part of the inquiry into the Surveillance Society and came across this:

Q478 Ms Buck: Continuing on the same line, would it be fair to say that you believe that the database you now have increases the likelihood of a criminal being convicted?

Chief Constable Neyroud: Yes.

Q479 Ms Buck: Is the corollary of that, therefore, that people whose DNA is on the database who have no previous conviction are more likely to be convicted than those who are not?

Chief Constable Neyroud: Well, the corollary is that, if you are on the database and you commit a serious crime, or crime that comes up on the crime scene, then yes, you are more likely to be convicted.

Q480 Ms Buck: What worries me about this is if you are on the database because you were arrested and not charged and, therefore, do not have a previous conviction, you are more likely to be convicted of an offence than somebody who has committed exactly the same offence who is not on the database, would that be right?

Chief Constable Neyroud: Statistically yes.

Q481 Ms Buck: I had an example recently of a group of children on an estate in my constituency who were picked up, and some were arrested by the police. They were running away, these children, for an offence that happened on the other side of the borough that they could not possibly have committed, and their DNA has been held and several of them are black. They did not commit an offence. Their DNA is now on the database; therefore, they are more likely to be convicted of an identical offence than another child, probably white in this instance. Would that be right?

Chief Constable Neyroud: That presupposes that they are going to go on and commit the sort of offences —

Q482 Ms Buck: No, it does not.

Chief Constable Neyroud: Statistically you are right, yes.

I’m sure I’m reading this incorrectly, but it reads to me as if a person who is on the DNA database and does not commit a crime is more likely to be convicted of an offence than someone who isn’t on the DNA database and does not commit a crime.

Can anyone of my readers help me understand?

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One Response

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  1. David Mery said, on April 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    My interpretation is that there’s an assumption that these two persons who have not committed any crime and one of which is on the NDNAD have an equal chance to later commit a crime. However the chance of detection if they commit a crime is not equal. It’s a bit tenuous!

    A discriminatory aspect of retention is being tested in the case we’re waiting the ECHR result of. A conclusion in one of the submission to this trial expresses the issue in a more concise and clear manner: “107. The blanket, permanent retention and open-ended use of personal information through the NDNAD, NAFIS and PNC under the PACE regime is unacceptable, and places the applicants at a permanent disadvantage when compared to those who have never been arrested (not on the relevant databases) and the police themselves (on an alternative database for a limited period of time, and with strong safeguards). It equalises the applicants with convicted criminals and, despite official assurances to the contrary, continues to mark them with the taint of criminality.”

    The case has not been made convincingly that adding DNA (of innocents) to the NDNAD is helpful in increasing the detection rate; getting DNA from more crime scenes, however, has a visible impact. And while the Police pushes for retaining DNA of innocents, they don’t always use the retained data to help those innocents. (More on all this in my recent post DNA retention of unconvicted people.)

    And then there’s the intrusive and disproportionate aspect of retaining DNA of innocents.

    br -d


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