Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather and the DNA database

The Steve Wright verdict this week demonstrates that with the right safeguards, a DNA database will make this country a safer place to live.

Sarah Teather has secured an adjournment debate to raise the issue of the ethnicity of people who are recorded on the database.

She is not quite accusing the government and the police of racism but the tone of her press release to promote the debate is not far off. “There is a real danger that the DNA database just reinforces the myth that black people are more likely to commit crime, and that is a very dangerous untruth” says Ms Teather.

Her press release does not answer the central question: is she in favour of a national DNA database or not? I look forward to hearing what she has to say.

16 comments ↓

#1 RobT on 02.29.08 at 8:22 pm

Why should her views on a dna database be relevant? A typical tactic is to deflect from her very valid accusation by shifting the debate.

Not only that, but your four little words “with the right safeguards”, reveal more about the Labour partys desire for absolute power over individuals than anything.

Perhaps, in turn, you could answer these questions:

1) Do you think that your party are the right people to trust to put in “the right safeguards”? After all, your party wanted MPs exempted from Freedom of Information Act. Good enough for us, but not for you.

2) Do you think that the example of one killer is enough to justify every person being put on a database? I don’t.

#2 Lyn on 02.29.08 at 8:43 pm

Racism includes when black youths target whites for victimization. So, DNA is not racist. And arresting black criminals is not racist. Finally, expecting blacks to follow the laws and holding them accountable when they choose not to follow the laws is not racist. I hope those of you in the UK can get past this red herring before you end up with the situation we have here in the USA.

#3 Ste B on 03.01.08 at 12:27 am

Instinctively, I don’t like the idea of a national DNA database – it smacks of Big Brother and all the negative conations associated with that idea…however, thinking about it more rationally, there shouldn’t be anything to be scared about – but ONLY if there is a massive cultural change in acknowleding what a positive DNA identification can, and more importantly, cannot do.

All that a positive DNA identification can do is confirm the presence of a person’s DNA at a crime scene. It cannot prove how their DNA got there, far less whether they are guilty of any crime or not. The onus most therefore lie with those seeking to prosecute to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, how that DNA got there.

Assuming that a person’s DNA has not been planted or transported accidentally to a site, I am becoming far less of a fan of the traditional civil liberties argument that people have a right not to have their (potentially entirely innocent) prescence at the vicinity of a crime scene exposed…..if they were there, for whatever reason, then there is no reason for that fact not to be exposed, however uncomfortable that might be to the individual concerned. And the reason for this; well quite simply because it would be the truth.

Which leads to the final, and by far the most important cultural change that could and should happen in this country. The whole basis of our legal system should be overhauled such that the adversarial system of British justice is replaced in its entirety with an investigative system, the sole purpose of which is to uncover the truth.

Okay, so we’d have fewer John Grisham style courtroom cliffhangers, but that’s a small price to pay in the pusuit of justice…..and with a national DNA database we’d catch and ultimately deter many more criminals.

#4 RobT on 03.02.08 at 7:41 pm

Its not a small price at all. There are just too many cosy assumptions in Ste B’s argument, and indeed in Toms original post. I still look forward to hearing what Tom has to say regarding these “safeguards” that he mentioned.

I don’t trust this government, or any other political party, when it comes to meddling in peoples lives.

This debate isn’t just about the criminals. It is about the innocent people who will one day find that their personal information has been deliberately misused.

#5 Tim on 03.03.08 at 9:10 am

Dear Mr Watson,

The treasury paid a criminal for information stolen from a bank in another sovereign state. Knowingly buying stolen good is against the law. What makes you think that we wont have moles who will be willing to steal information and pass it on to third parties? DNA information is worth a lot of money to the right people.

If there is a database that we must all contribute to we all become a nation of suspects rather than innocent men and women. This is worrying.

#6 Joe Bloggs on 03.03.08 at 10:31 am

If we give the current government the benefit of the doubt (and given their track record on matters of privacy and IT projects I’m being more than generous) I still think this is a very bad idea. While it’s easy to see the appeal of making the job of the Police easier, with hopefully more reliable convictions, one thing should never be forgotten; all succeeding goverments will also have access to the DNA database. Imagine Germany in the 30s with this kind of data; it would have made the dispatching of millions far more efficient. If that doesn’t make you worried then I don’t know what would.

By the way, Tom, what guarantees are you offering about the security of this database? If someone steals your credit card details or address in an ID scam you can always renew them. You can’t renew your DNA – it’s you, the very essence of you, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Also, talking up this database as the cure for society’s ills because it will enable us to cram yet more ne’er-do-wells into the overcrowded prison system is not real or fair public debate. How about you list all the potential problems that you know about?

#7 Gary Elsby on 03.03.08 at 12:50 pm

Tom, because I believe that ‘beyond reasobale doubt’ dignifies everything I believe about living in a Democracy (not a cricket test, as I would fail it), I reject the case for a National DNA database.

I will put your fingerprints and/or DNA on any murder weapon or scene of crime, at any time you can’t prove your whereabouts. at any time of my choosing (not yours).

I don’t need to ask anybody in Stoke of their views and they don’t need enquire of mine.

Overwhelming majority will decline the invitation (beating)to be included in such a hate-filled construction.

Gary

#8 Robert on 03.06.08 at 10:07 am

What i want to see is people put away, last night I watched a new cop show, the police said while chasing a group down the road in a stolen car, what bother, the bloke or youth was drunk they had his DNA on record, he smashed up a police car drove like an idiot put peoples lives at risk, he had 100 hours of community work £100 fine. the owner of the car will have to pay excess on his insurance for more.

Another three people one trying to buy drugs, the other said he tried to kill them with a knife police spend hours and he had four bloody months in jail. A bloke well known to the police banned from driving for ten years three bans, stopped again the officer said why do we bother, banned again, and fined £400, and 100 hours community work for driving while banned and driving while drunk. next time he could kill somebody.

The fact is we treat people with kid cloves these people are OK stealing cars driving like lunatics, but one day they will kill is it not the job of judges to stop these people from killing somebody in the future, forget a DNA data base lets get tough on idiots.

#9 RobT on 03.06.08 at 11:12 am

First the lie that id cards will make us safer, then the lie that a dna database will make the world a cosy place.

id cards being implemented for students first, by stealth.

Tom, you’re slower than Sarah Teather when it comes to giving your views!

#10 Dave Price on 03.07.08 at 10:56 am

First the big lie that the ID card will be a huge database in itself!
This is about biometrics that is this pile of cells at this keyboard really is Dave Price and not an impostor? Once you have tied in those cells to a name you then get passport ID and in turn NI number that is the extent of this data base. At that point the appropriate bodies can check any of the databases that already exist about you your tax, health, finances etc. etc. in the knowledge that they are tying the right data with the right person. So no huge single data base being created just finally a method of proving who you are. So you will be able to leave and enter your country and others with ease and access your own funds and records without having to carry around your passport. Bring it on! My passport is up this year and I want to replace it for ease of use with an ID card, my frustration is that I now have to buy another ten year passport which will not improve my quality and security of life.

#11 Dave Price on 03.07.08 at 11:07 am

As for the role out do you want 60 million done tomorrow or in six months??

Identifying chunks of people for whom the possession of an ID card will benefit us all (Security) (Controlled Immigration) or in fact them to have the card being first seems perfect sense to me. Spreading out the role out over a number of years so that it is manageable – this is a bad thing?

We have enough criticism of Government IT schemes in the past so that when a phased introduction is suggested that will allow build up of expertise and resources to facilitate seamless larger role outs in the future then the same people complain!

#12 Mike Homfray on 03.07.08 at 12:46 pm

But is safety the main issue here We could import our policies from Singapore and no doubt we would all feel a whole lot safer. But is that the sort of regime we want to live in?

freedom inevitably means a reduction of safety.

#13 Steve on 03.07.08 at 9:08 pm

‘1984’ was a safer place to live.

#14 RobT on 03.08.08 at 5:24 pm

Has Dave Price been on the sauce?!

#15 Christopher Holyhead on 03.10.08 at 7:23 pm

If someone is killed on a bus then there could be 100+ suspects each possibly being awoken in the night because the police urgently need to speak to them.

Is the pursuit of a suspect sufficient rationale in thes case for impairing the civil liberty of the 99 innocents woken up to the sound and knocking on the door by police?

I am happy only with it being a database for people who have been arrested for an offence, including visitors to the UK. If you don’t wanna get on the database, then don’t get arrested..

There is also the issue of security and with government mishandling information and passing this information onto insurance companies for profit..

#16 Vidal on 03.11.08 at 12:59 am

Take it you’ve never seen Gattaca then?

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