Good Lord, I’m In Agreement With The Howard League For Penal Reform!

Thousands of ex-offenders are to be targeted in a national drive to add their profiles to the police DNA database in an attempt to solve hundreds of crimes.

Yes, you read that right – ‘ex-offenders’. And how can they do this?


Forces are using powers under the Crime and Security Act 2010, which became law last year. The aim is to gather DNA profiles from criminals who were convicted before the database – which now contains 6.5m profiles – was set up in 1995.

Wow! We have 6.5 million criminals?

Ah. No. Not exactly…

Meanwhile, the profiles of 1.1 million individuals who have been arrested but never convicted remain on the database.

That’s …. *counts on fingers* …a whole 16% of the total on that database that are people who should never be there.

Because they aren’t criminals!

But hang on, we shouldn’t be too hasty. What about the argument that crimes are going unsolved as a result? Shouldn’t we address this logically by carrying out a sample and…

Oh! Wait:

In a sample operation in Hampshire, 471 individuals were examined but it was discovered that many had died or were already on the database because they had reoffended since 1995. Of the 167 individuals whose DNA profiles were taken there were no hits against unsolved crimes.

No hits.

No crimes solved as a result. The idea should have been binned then and there.

They know this is unconscionable, but they clearly feel no shame in simply bald-facedly lying about it.

The aim, senior officers said, was to ensure police could maximise opportunities to prevent and detect crime as a result of the Crime and Security Act 2010.

You aren’t going to do that, though, are you? Your own results show that.

You’re just wasting everyone else’s time and money while you fruitlessly seek to get what you really want – everyone’s DNA on the database so that all that ‘solving crime’ business is as difficult as pushing a button.

Because it seems that so many police officers now are only fit for that…

Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Members of the public will expect the police to be pursing active investigations and in the overwhelming majority of these cases the people having their sample taken will not be suspected of any new crime.

Diverting resources away from following up current leads to track down people based on convictions that may be decades old is a questionable strategy at a time when the police are already overstretched.

“I hope forces will be giving equal focus to addressing the many innocent people on the DNA database who are now entitled to have their profile deleted, as was decided by parliament in May.”

Yeah, good luck with that, Nick!

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It strikes me as bizarre that at a time when the police are facing the most severe budget cuts and job losses in a generation, this is how they choose to spend what little money they have left.

“Is the public better served by the police going out on the beat and keeping our neighbourhoods safe – or going on a wild goose chase after thousands of people, who may have served their time decades ago, just so an officer can give each of them a DNA swab?”

I feel dirty for agreeing with you, Frances.

But agree with you I do. And at a time when the police are relying on the strength of feeling of the public to help them put pressure on the government to halt the proposed Winsor reforms, this is a massive misstep.

12 comments for “Good Lord, I’m In Agreement With The Howard League For Penal Reform!

  1. September 30, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Very good article. Police are now so busy nicking people for their thoughts that DNA fit-ups for other crimes will soon become the norm.

  2. Greg Tingey
    September 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I am very suprised that a DNA fit-up has not already occurred.
    Maybe it has, but we just haven’t spotted it yet?

  3. ivan
    September 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

    And what happens when one little bug gets into that database and wipes it?

    No computer system is immune, they only have to annoy the wrong people and ACPOs pride and joy is no more. Oh dear, then what?

  4. Tatty
    September 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Meanwhile, the profiles of 1.1 million individuals who have been arrested but never convicted remain on the database.

    The Law is…deliberately…horribly complicated and so too the language used. Strictly speaking, “never convicted” does not equate to “innocent” and therein lies part of the problem.

    The focus really should be on removing DNA from the database of those that are “arrested but not charged” and narrowed down further to “not charged due to”:

    A) TOTAL lack of evidence (not the same as “insufficient” evidence”)
    B) False allegations

    This would be, at least, a LOT closer to the definition of “innocent” and such people have no place whatsoever on National DNA Database in a subfolder marked “Criminal”.

    As always, it’s all in the language and I’m sure it could be simplified even further.

    • SteveW
      September 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      Disagree Tatty, I’m inclined to go with innocent until proven guilty. If you’ve not been convicted (and I guess as a caveat, are not currently under investigation, having been charged of a crime) then you are, by definition, innocent.

      State has no business retaining DNA.

      • Tatty
        October 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        Steve, I disagree with you on “innocent until proven guilty” for the simple fact that The Law has become corrupted, perverted and so far removed from reality that it’s downright dangerous and so that particular phrase….along with a multitude of Laws designed to protect us from The State…has now lost it’s original meaning.

        I recall someone commenting (paraphrased) that the courts are a gladiatorial arena in which the Prosecution and Defence do battle using the The Law as weapons and where the Guilt or Innocence of the Defendant is irrelevant.

        So, legally innocent does not equate to factually innocent…or vice versa…and DNA is just another weapon. A very powerful weapon and one which we would all like whipped out in our Defence.

        State retention of DNA has it’s place. In Medical matters, for instance, it can be crucial in pre-empting and diagnosing disease. But I do agree that in Criminal matters The State has a LONG way to go in gaining anyone’s trust regarding appropriate retention and use.

        As Julia points out…at least one of the problems with it is the financial cost and whether anyone can seriously claim it is a priority or even viable in a time of supposed “savage cuts” and manufactured Recession without being greeted with raucous laughter and disbelief.

        You can’t claim to be skint when spending money like water. The Police “Service” increasingly presents as being all fur coat and no knickers. 😐

        • SteveW
          October 2, 2012 at 12:00 am

          Now that, I can’t argue with, neither can I bring myself to put a happy little face there as it’s actually a terrible indictment on how low we, as a society, have sank.

    • October 2, 2012 at 5:50 am

      “Strictly speaking, “never convicted” does not equate to “innocent”…”

      Like Steve W, in this country (unlike Scotland) it’s ‘innocent until proved guilty’ and that’s the way I’d prefer it to stay.

      • Tatty
        October 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

        Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not suggesting we go completely in the opposite direction and …if it wasn’t clear…I’m right behind the morality and sentiment of the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”.

        I’m just painfully aware…as we all are…that the legality and reality doesn’t quite match up.

  5. Furor Teutonicus
    October 2, 2012 at 5:09 am

    We keep reading, and getting told, how expensive it is to make a DNA anylasys, so “don’t send us samoles from EVERY one you nick, because we can not afford it!2.

    Yet now, they propose to test, and I presume analyse, if the idea is to solve cold cases,”thousands” of criminals samples, in case one of them nicked half a dozen eggs from Tescos in 1985, or whatever?

    Once more, I will ask, “finance crises”, WHAT FUCKING “finance crises”??? When they can waste money on this shite, then there IS no “crises.” Never was, and never WILL be.

    • October 2, 2012 at 5:50 am

      They’ve already started. Hang the cost!

  6. Richard Carey
    October 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    When they do catch, charge, prosecute and convict dangerous criminals, they give them a minimal sentence and let them out half way through.

    Meanwhile they have turned the country into a camera-ridden open prison, firstly by letting out people known to be dangerous criminals and treating the rest of us like suspects.

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