I’m generally no fan of the European Court of Human Rights, indeed, I’m not a big fan of human rights legislation per se. I am pleased, however, about their decision that to keep the DNA records of innocent people is wrong.
I’ve been saying this for years. I was one of the few officers who refused to give their DNA sample to the job. In August this year I blogged about it. I’m pleased to see the Court of Human Rights agrees with me.
Basically, everyone arrested gets their DNA taken and stored on the national database. If they are found to be uninvolved in the case, there is insufficient evidence to proceed against them or they are found not guilty at court, they have no right to have their DNA sample removed from the database. That was until yesterday.
The court found that keeping samples from innocent people breached their right to a private life. The judges also said that keeping the samples stigmatised individuals.
Britain has the largest DNA database in the world, over 4.6 million people are recorded, of those, some 1.6 million have never been convicted of an offence.
The argument usually goes that of you’ve got nothing to hide why should you care whether your DNA is on record, and that if everyone was on the database we would solve more crimes. The counter-argument goes that if you have done nothing wrong why should the state store details so personal as DNA & given that the government has demonstrated time & time & time again that they can’t be trusted to keep highly personal & sensitive information safe, why should they be trusted to keep your DNA safe from abuse.
It is probably true that we would solve more crimes with everyone on the database. But if that is the major case for collecting it, then we perhaps should look to microchip everyone with a GPS chip and then we could monitor everyone’s movements throughout their whole life, that way we would know exactly who was at every single crime scene ever recorded whether they left DNA or not, surely a much more effective anti-crime tool, since most crimes aren’t solved with the use of DNA.
Given that the vast majority of people never commit a crime for which DNA would be useful, why should they provide their DNA in the slim chance that at some unspecified time in the future, they just might.
Good on the European Court of Human Rights, I say. I wonder how the government will weedle it’s way round the requirement to remove the 1.6million records by March 2009. They’ll probably just do it illegally.