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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 13:55 GMT
Call for inquiry into DNA samples
Black man and police
The over-representation of black people on the DNA database stems from an 'age-old concern' say critics
The government should look into why black people are over-represented on the UK's DNA database, says a black police officers' group.

It did not necessarily mean more black criminality, said National Black Police Association spokesman Keith Jarrett.

He said an inquiry should examine if officers used the "same robustness" in taking samples from different groups.

The Guardian has reported 37% of black men are in the database, compared with fewer than one in 10 white men.

The Home Office has admitted black people are over-represented but said figures from the newspaper could give a "misleading impression".

A spokesman said the Home Office did not accept the Guardian's figures because they were based on two different sets of statistics which were not comparable.

The Guardian compared the DNA database ethnic group figures - which are compiled by police officers defining an arrested person's race - against the 2001 census where race is self-reported.

Once again it's not an argument about the law -because the law is the law. It's about how the law is used
David Weaver, 1990 Trust

But civil liberties and black groups say that, whatever the arguments about the details, the fact that more black people are clearly ending up on the database is worrying.

Since last April anybody arrested can have their DNA details held, even if they are not subsequently charged or if they are acquitted after a trial.

'Age-old concern'

National Black Police Association spokesman Mr Jarrett says this change has inevitably led to more black men's DNA ending up on the database.

He says his time as a custody officer proved to him that black men were more likely to be arrested, as black people had been brought in for "really minor things".

"We know from the stop and search figures that black people are disproportionally more likely to be stopped and to come into the custody area than white people.

"That is a worry in itself because if that is replicated throughout the country DNA samples could be taken from somebody like that and they're not then charged with any offence," Mr Jarrett said.

Black-led human rights group the 1990 Trust said the reason that more black men seemed to be ending up on the DNA database harked back to an "age-old concern".

"Once again it's not an argument about the law - because the law is the law. It's about how the law is used," said 1990 Trust spokesman David Weaver.

"I think there is a case for the law reverting to what it was before. If you're not convicted your DNA should be destroyed just on the grounds of human rights."

The current situation left in the minds of black communities the suspicion that they were being targeted, Mr Weaver added.

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