Damian Green claims a DNA victory, but the Tories should be careful what they wish for

Damian Green MP has successfully persuaded the Metropolitan Police to remove his details from the database of DNA profiles.   He calls this “a significant victory for freedom”.  Elsewhere, Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty, points out you shouldn’t need to be in “Who’s Who” to get your details cancelled.

At present, the law – passed by Parliament – says that those arrested by the police are required to give a sample of their DNA and that the profile thus obtained is normally retained whether or not the individual concerned is subsequently charged or convicted.  Damian Green was famously arrested in relation to police inquiries following the leaking of official documents from the Home Office.  He was not in the event charged when the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Incidentally, I don’t remember the Conservatives kicking up much of a fuss when the legislation was originally passed – now, of course, they believe it to be an appalling affront to civil liberties.

Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (an institution about which most Tories are normally distinctly luke-warm), the Government is now consulting about how long such profiles should be retained. 

The profiles are not, of course, the full DNA profile but simply a series of ten or twenty two-digit numbers giving sufficient data to identify an individual uniquely.

Many serious crimes – some of them quite old – have been solved using the information on the database.  If Damian Green’s DNA were now found at a crime scene (I hasten to emphasise that I am NOT suggesting that it will be), he would escape detection.  Likewise, if advances in DNA technology made it possible to extract his DNA from an historic murder or rape scene (repeat disclaimer), again he would escape detection.

And that is the dilemma: a large database is helping to catch serious criminals, but people are concerned that the data of people who have never been charged of a crime are being stored along with the data of the most heinous of offenders.  One way of resolving this would, of course, be to retain data on every individual resident in or visiting the country, the presence of data on the database would not then be discriminatory and it would be a substantial help in identifying criminals.  Those who do not commit crimes would have nothing to fear and those that do would be deterred knowing that the risk of detection would be higher.

More likely, however, is that the database will be restricted and that as a result crimes will rise as more criminals remain undetected.

It would be a delicious irony, although it is no doubt a very remote prospect, that in a few years time Damian Green will be a Home Office Minister (that is the remote bit) and will have to stand up in the House of Commons to defend the failures of the police to catch someone at long last convicted of a series of revolting and violent crimes, who would have been caught much earlier had the DNA taken, when he was arrested (but not charged) some years before for an unrelated issue, been retained.  No doubt, he will reiterate that the destruction of that individual’s DNA data was also  “a significant victory for freedom”.

8 thoughts on “Damian Green claims a DNA victory, but the Tories should be careful what they wish for”

  1. “He was not in the event charged when the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.” wrote Toby above.

    “I have therefore decided there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Mr Galley or Mr Green.” CPS on:

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/press_releases/122_09/index.html

    Might I assume that the CPS takes all factors which might be permitted to be raised in court as relevant – such as the context which included Bob Quick’s MET invasion of Green’s Commons Office, and the allegations re Gordon Brown’s leaked info when Labour was in opposition into account?

    There seems to be quite a bit of support for a DNA database from readers who usually are inclined to shout “Civil Liberties!” here:

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6214838&postID=1042955944334256539&page=1

    There are a few who are rather annoyed though . . .

  2. Most notable that Harriet Harman supports the DNA database. As she said in her speech to the NFWI:

    “More rapists are being caught and prosecuted.  Here are the numbers. In 1997, 517 rapists were convicted. The latest figures, I’m afraid they’re only for 2006, but the latest figures show that 754 men were convicted of rape. This is an increase in rape convictions of 45%. Now this did not happen by itself.  It is because of the commitment of everybody across the board to make tackling rape a priority in the criminal justice system.  And it’s happened through the toughening and clarification of the law, which was the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.  It came from overhauling the support for victims of rape with new Sexual Assault Referral Centres.  When victims of sexual assault go to the SARC like the one in my constituency, in Kings college Hospital, they’re looked after by an expert team who will treat their cuts and bruises (or worse), provide emergency contraception, test for sexually transmitted infection and also keep forensic samples for use if there is a trial later.  So they really look after the victim, but they also keep the evidence for any future trial.

    “And the DNA database – which I very, very strongly support – I know it’s highly controversial, but I strongly support the DNA database, because it has helped convict rapists, sometimes many years after the crime. “

  3. My Lord,

    My don’t you give a DNA sample yourself? You can voluntarily submit to give a DNA sample and have this retained without being arrested. As you write about Mr Green, if you were to commit a crime we would be able to trace you. Also, if your DNA was matched to a rape you had committed in the past, we would be able to bring you to justice. So advanced is modern DNA sampling and analysis, we would be able catch possible murders and rapists in your family, such as your children and grandchildren through your DNA.

    I trust you will take this opportunity to voluntarily submit a DNA sample. If you would like me to accompany you in doing this i would be happy to oblige. I’m confident you will give a DNA sample… you don’t have anything to hide do you?

  4. They didn’t need a DNA sample to judge both that Green was guilty, and that a jury would be likely to let him get away with it. So they had to devil re the severity of the offences.

    But the CPS has gone the way Bojo’s Dep Mayoral Flunky Kit Moorhouse claims the Met has, the politicisation of legal process here is a scandal. It will only get worse if Chameleon & Osborne get their paws on it.

  5. @Quiet: It is absurd to say “Green was guilty” and “a jury would likely let him get away with it” in the same sentence.

    More broadly, this isn’t party political issue; it is a question of principle. Mr Green’s does not belong on the DNA database because he is innocent of a crime. This also goes for members of the Labour Party who are on the DNA database and innocent of the crime they were arrested for, people such as Desmond Smith, Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and Christopher Evans.

    @His Lordship: When are we going to the police station to donate your sample?

  6. “@Quiet: It is absurd to say “Green was guilty” and “a jury would likely let him get away with it” in the same sentence.”

    However absurd, it is true. I am not looking up the report again, “no realistic prospect of conviction” and “public interest” ring in my head when I recall it. As with the N o W phone hacking case/s the police regard the whole thing as a menace and the CPS follows on.

    It is a party issue, because the tories dishonestly bid against almost anything HMG does which might be taken by Libertairyfairians as leading to greater security in Great Britain.

    Having happily given my name & address to MI whatever on a CND march when I was 14 and come to no harm, even been employed in a security role after the firm concerned uncovered my “record,” I’d be happy to provide the UK authorities with a DNA sample.

    If HMP Britain would like to go in first . . ?

    (promise to share the pay per view rights, hornest sharkey . . .)

  7. A 10 or 20 line marker is not enough to prove a “million to one” case as the tabloids claim. In any northern european population the DNA sample would have to be very specific, I match with 20% of Northern Ireland (haplotype R1b1c7) would you arrest every ma in Derry? (It has been tried previously).

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