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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
DNA database call prompts concern
DNA Helix
A new profile is added to the DNA database every 45 seconds
A debate has broken out after a senior judge called for the national DNA database to be expanded to include everyone living in or visiting the UK.

Lord Justice Sedley said it would be fairer if the England and Wales database, which holds DNA from crime scenes and suspects, were universal.

Those in favour say it would help solve more crimes.

But critics say the move would be an infringement of civil liberties and increase the risk of mistakes.

Opinions expressed by key figures in the debate include the following:

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION LIBERTY

"The DNA debate reveals just how casual some people have become about the value of personal privacy.

"A database of those convicted of sexual and violent crime is a perfectly sensible crime-fighting measure.

"A database of every man, woman and child in the country is a chilling proposal, ripe for indignity, error and abuse."

TONY MCNULTY, HOME OFFICE MINISTER

"There is no government plan to go to a compulsory database now or in the foreseeable future.

"There is a logic to what Sir Stephen [Lord Justice Sedley] is saying. I have said that myself in the past, that there is a real logic and cohesion to the point that says 'Well, put everybody on'.

"But I think he probably does under-estimate the practicalities, logistics and huge civil liberties and ethics issue around that."

CH SUPT IAN JOHNSTON, PRESIDENT OF THE POLICE SUPERINTENDENTS' ASSOCIATION FOR ENGLAND AND WALES

If people know their DNA is on the database will they commit these very serious offences?
Ian Johnston
President of the Police Superintendents' Association

"DNA in lots and lots of serious cases - generally involving sex offences and children - is sometimes, or very often, the only evidence we have.

"And you will know of high-profile cases that have been detected many years later when DNA was the only evidence and that's got to be good.

"And of course there is always the deterrent effect. If people know their DNA is on the database will they commit these very serious offences?"

RICHARD THOMAS, INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

"Lord Justice Sedley is right to start a debate on this matter. He's right to highlight some of the unfairness, the illogicality of the present arrangements.

The potential for technical and human error leading to serious consequences cannot be under estimated
Richard Thomas
Information Commissioner

"We have to think very long and very hard before going down the road of a universal DNA database.

"But there are some risks involved. This approach can be very intrusive. It raises really fundamental questions about how much the state or the police know about each of us.

"People say DNA is infallible, but if you get the knock on the door saying, 'We've found your DNA,' in effect you have to start proving your innocence, so that raises fundamental questions about the criminal justice system.

"And there are the practicalities... The potential for technical and human error leading to serious consequences cannot be underestimated."

DAVID DAVIS, SHADOW HOME SECRETARY

"What is vital is that criminals are put on the DNA database but what the government currently puts on the database is totally arbitrary.

"The erratic nature of this database means that some criminals have escaped having their DNA recorded whilst a third of those people on the database - over a million people - have never been convicted of a crime.

"It is long past time that the government answered our calls for a parliamentary debate about this database and to put it on a statutory basis."

NICK CLEGG, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT HOME AFFAIRS SPOKESMAN

"This contrasts with the Government's cloak and dagger strategy of creating a universal database behind the backs of the British people.

"There is no earthly reason why someone who has committed no crime should be on the database in the first place, yet the government is shoving thousands of innocent people's DNA details on to the database every month."

KEITH VAZ MP, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

"This is a step too far; we should in fact be going the other way.

"I see no justification in keeping innocent people's information on file
Keith Vaz MP
Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee

"The UK has the largest DNA database in the world, with 5.2% of its population on record. Information is kept on citizens that have not been found guilty of any crime or guilty of crime where their DNA was not appropriate for the investigation.

"I see no justification in keeping innocent people's information on file. I am pleased that the current review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is considering the value of such information.

"I also hold concerns - following the admission in August this year that over 500,000 names on the DNA database are false, incorrectly spelt or incorrect - that extending this database will only exacerbate such problems."

PHIL BOOTH, CO-ORDINATOR OF NO2ID CAMPAIGN AGAINST IDENTITY CARDS

"You can't make an 'indefensible' system better by expanding it.

"The only way to tackle the unfairness of the DNA database and restore trust in the system is to remove the records of every innocent person currently held.

"Anything else is a perversion of justice."

SIR AL AYNSLEY-GREEN, CHILDREN'S COMMISSIONER FOR ENGLAND

"The views and interests of children and young people must be taken into account at every stage of the planning and implementation of databases that hold personal information about them and where this information is to be shared amongst agencies.

"There is clearly a need for wider public debate about the DNA database, particularly discussions on the inclusion of children and them giving consent to their DNA being stored.

"Children and young people have told me that they need better understanding of how information about them is collected, stored and used and they want constant reassurance that their right to privacy will be respected."


SEE ALSO
DNA failings 'missed 183 crimes'
17 May 07 |  Politics
PM champions new DNA technology
23 Oct 06 |  Politics
DNA database Big Brother warning
12 Jan 05 |  Politics

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