Friday, 15 January 2010

Innocent people on DNA database.

I've just had some really worrying figures through about the number of people with their details stored on the national DNA database - both nationally and on Merseyside.

Back in Decemer 2008 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was illegal to keep innocent people's details on teh databse. Yet it seems that more than 100,000 people who are have not been found guilty of anything, have had their details added to the database since then.

The figures have come out through research by the Lib Dems in Parliament. The figures for Merseyside are:

150,820 profiles held. Of these 31, 371 are of innocent people. Since the December 08 rulng 6,560 profiles of innocent people have been added. 4 people meanwhile have managed to get their profiles removed. That mens that for every "innocent profile" removed since the ruling more than 1,600 have been added.

Despite the Government’s promises to abide by the European Court’s ruling, they are still doing everything they can to avoid it.

Labour do have a proposal which involves innocent people's information being kept for six years before being removed - a sort of "half guilty" category I guess.

But frankly if you are not guilty of anything there should be no question of your DNA being stored.

Well done to Jenny Willott for digging out these figures.


PM Swimmer said...


I agree with you completely over the DNA database and whole ID card issue.
Yet a while back I posted asking how you could, given your clearly strong feelings over this trampling of our rights and the criminalisation of people not convicted of any crime, happily sit as part of a council that has rolled out a massive programme of CCTV cameras and is using ABOS both against individuals and people within whole areas?

ASBOS are in my mind exactly the same a the DNA database they criminalise behaviour that is not illegal and in the worst cases actually lead to imprisonment of individuals for actions that are not criminal, would not result in imprisonment if they were the subject of a criminal charge themselves and are not part of the traditional justice system where one has a right to face their accusers and argue their case in front of a judge/ magistrate or jury.

And CCTV effectively sends out the message that we’re all potentially up to something that those in authority don’t like and that regardless of our behaviour and motives those in authority, no matter how tenuously, have the right to watch us from secret locations, record those images and share them with a variety of public and private bodies.

Tell me how is having my DNA on the Home Office database any different to being filmed by some unskilled council rent-a-cop, who’s decided that my waiting outside a public building is suspicious and those digital images being stored? In both cases I’m treated as ‘not entirely innocent’ and worthy of keeping on file without the rights to fight these shadowy charges.

Seriously Paula I’m all for you anger at ID cards but I think the Lib-dems double standards here somewhat blows a hole in your case.

I’ll be really impressed if you can justify CCTV cameras and ASBOs without using the exact arguments that the Labour Govt. uses to justify DNA databases and ID cards.

Scratch that I’ll be really impressed if you publish and answer this at all.
To put it in context I’m a traditional Labour voter that has been unable to vote for them because of what I see as their attack on our civil liberties and our hard won rights, so if you can answer me honestly (even if that is I don’t believe in this but the group as a whole did), it will be one more vote against the new labour eagle your standing against.

Paula Keaveney said...

Interestingly I was asked a question about CCTV recently when I was on a panel debate at an event for young people organised by the youth engagement team at the City Council. The question was in the context of CCTV cameras being put in a schools toilet and whether it was an invasion of privacy!

I said I personally thought CCTV development had gone too far. The reasons for this are not just that in some cases they are infringing civil liberties but also because they don't do what they say on the tin. One of my points was that they don't really prevent crime ( I believe there is some research on this although I can't remember the references now)

Needless to say the other three panellists - Labour leader, Green party leader and leader of the Liberals - didn't agree with me and in fact had quite a go. Their point was that CCTV can actually help catch criminals.

Now I know that to be the case as I am giving evidence shortly in a case of theft and I am pretty sure that CCTV played a big part in identifying the person who is charged. My point however is that I would rather my property hadn't been stolen in the first place and even though CCTV probably has played a role, traditional policing has come into it as well. And if you believe erroneously that sticking up some cameras is going to make an area safe then you tend to neglect the other measures that actually would achieve that end.

I am not 100 percent against these cameras. Having seen as a journalist how cameras at busy road intersections etc can help provide essential information for drivers etc, I know they have a role. I can also see their use in potentially crowded areas when decisions are needed about creating space or limiting entry (sports stadia would be an example here or busy shopping streets) .I'd just argue that when there are areas of crime and nuisance, we ought not to jump to the conclusion that the answer is always CCTV. I think most people would prefer that crime is prevented and often there are other things that can be done which are more effective (albeit less high profile)

On Section 30 zones, I have supported these in the past and will continue to do so when there is evidence and when there is youth work going on in the area. There is evidence that these have worked although I do believe these should be used after other things have been tried and we do all need to stop demonising young people as most are thouroughly decent (if a bit loud at times!!!) I have to say, as a single woman, that sometimes it is groups of adult men standing outside a pub that seem more intimidating than a group of young people.

PM Swimmer said...

Paula, thanks for taking the time to respond, unfortunately I don't really get your response.

You largely don't agree with CCTV cameras (and I agree with your rationale) yet you are part of a council adminstration that has swamped the city with CCTV cameras, controlled through a secret control room, recording images digitally with no clear public info on how these images are stored or shared and no real opportunity for members of the public to know what info is kept on them and who is seeing it?

Is your answer that you don't agree with the prevellence of CCTV cameras in Liverpool but that its nothing to do with the lib-dem council of which you are a part?

I don't really care what Labour, Greens or Liberals think on it, they aren't in charge in the Council and so they can't be held to account for current council funds being used to install and maintain the more than 200 cameras and the monitoring station or the rent-a-cops operating them. You do have to answer for this and I can't tell from your response what you are saying?
Do you think that the council should be spending less on this?
If so what are you going to do about it?
Why is it ok for civilian (i.e. not properly trained police officers) CCTV operatives to stallk members of public from a distance as they quite legally move about public spaces and record their image?
What rules govern this, who is checking that they are being enforced?

Quite simply why is the council storing and sharing images of me walking around town any different to the Home office storing my DNA on a database?

As for the section 30 thing, well I can see why you might support them, and in principle I have no problem with local solutions being developed to deal with local problems however you haven't addressed my major gripe which is that you are supporting a process which leads to the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of people for doing something that is not illegal.The asbos your happy to implement actually make it a criminal offence for those young people (that like every any questions panelist you say we shouldn't demonise) ,to congregate in groups , not by investing in the law enforcement or social programmes to prevent that reasonable behaviour escalating into illegal acts but instead by imposing a catch-all rule and making it illegal to break that rule with a maximum tariff of 5 years in prison.

Please explain how you can be so against ID cards and yet think it perfectly ok to make congregating on street corners an imprisonable offence? both sound like the tools of a police state to me ?

Oh and how come the answer to anti-social behaviour is never spending public money to tell those above 20 years old that teenagers hanging on a street corner, have every right to that and that its nothing more than petty discrimination to jump to the conclusion that they are all up to no good.