03 August 2007

To be fair we need to store DNA on everybody.

The DNA database helps the police catch the correct perpetrators of many crimes - some of the most horrendous crimes and some of the most difficult to catch 'anonymous' crimes are solved mainly due to the database. The success of the database is unquestionable and is good news for all of us - innocent people have been set free as a result of the database. Whatever argument we have against the database, this is the first thought that needs to be in our mind...

One of the most recent arguments being used against taking DNA samples is that currently black men are four times more likely to be on the database than white men. Firstly this is an argument against the current way of collecting data rather than an argument against the database itself. Secondly, this statistic is slightly misleading anyway - we are not comparing like for like, let me explain.

Those on the database are much more likely to come from the 15-34 age group where black people make up a much bigger percentage of this population. So the comparison needs to be between black and white males in this age group to make sense. As black/mixed race people make up almost 10% of this age group compared to less than 4% of the total population, this is likely to reduce the discrepancy considerably. Next we have to look at social class, if we compare working class white males with working class black males in this age group, the discrepancy would almost certainly disappear. It is clear the bias is just reflecting a wider social class discrimination (indirect racial discrimination) within society not direct racial discrimination.

Anyway, this argument, as I have already said is an aside, to be really fair we need to DNA database everybody - there need not be any stigma attached to being on this database. I would gratefully add my details if everybody in society had to be on it - as the benefits to me (and society in general) would outweigh my inconvenience. More dangerous criminals would be caught and less miscarriages of justice would occur - protecting me in two ways - making me less likely to be wrongly accused or imprisoned and reducing the number of criminals on our streets thereby reducing my chances of being a victim of crime.


  1. Neil, my fellow rabid libertarians tend to disagree, but every now and then you read about somebody who gets nicked for some horrific crime as a result of said database, so on a purely practical level, I'll agree with you for once.

  2. Sure, and what is next? I say we make everyone wear special badges based on their genetic profile, just for fairness of course. Yellow six pointed stars for some maybe? I am sure you people will claim you can make the trains run on time too.

    Mark, I will make my chances with criminals, we seem to have managed so far without turing the country into a Bethamite panopticon. It is not criminals but the people with the power of the state behind them are are the ones who worry me. You do not need to be very 'rabid' a libertarian to start making molotov cocktails on this DNA issue, hell, I know plenty of Labour supporters who are truly horrified by this plan.

  3. My DNA is nothing to do with the state. I am not a criminal and have no wish to be added to a database of criminals, after all there is a presumed guilt by association. I am also concerned that the database will be shared with the rest of the EU!

    What happens if you have been to a place and the police only find your DNA, as the crims usually wear gloves and with the added benefit of CSI programmes, know what to hide?

    Ultimately I am not interested in what the Government want, they no longer serve us, just themselves.

  4. green_dome5/8/07 4:57 pm

    Listen Mr Labour Supporter you disgusting specimen of a man you and your Labour scumbag friends have to learn to keep your social control experiments to yourself the state does not own the population so fuck off with your evil schemes.

  5. I agree with green dome--the dross of NuLabour are going not merely for control of the people but it seems outright ownership is their aim. To hell with you.

  6. Who the fuck are you to deem what the state can do with my personal and private property, you snivelling, cretinous excuse for a fellow human being?

    I really, really, really hate interfering anoraks like you.

  7. Neil,

    You are so obviously of the same mindset of our current crop of "leaders". They say that ID cards will be "good" but fail to offer any details, and when asked about the costs, they run off to the High Court to try to avoid telling us what we are paying for. I'd need to see a lot more practical details of how you are planning to do this before I'd be prepared to accept all your unsubstianted claims. Did you read about this, by the way

    A baby boy positively identified by DNA testing decades after he died when the Titanic sank has now been named as someone else


    Like our current band of tosser leaders, you have no knowledge of the technologies you propose, no practical proposals for their use, no concept of the costs (or in the case of the government deliberately try to hide the costs), and no regard for the people who will be wrongly identified by them.

    Your total commitment to insisting we are all branded "property of the state" is sickening and disgusting.

    Just as one example, what measures do you feel would be needed to ensure that elderly, sick, disabled, mentally ill, homeless people and travellers all gave their DNA - and how soon would visitors to the UK be expected to give their DNA?
    How will you ensure everyone has given a sample?

  8. Mark: Thanks for the support.

    Perry: Let's talk about the actual proposals shall we, rather than some imaginary hypothetical that will never happen. This slippery slope argument is not realistic.

    ifb: I love how you separate the oh so eviiiil 'state' from the 'people'. In a democracy the people choose the state. Our democracy is far from perfect (we need to get PR and a free press to improve it) - but essentially the power does (sort of) lie with the mass of people - if people want to reject this at the ballot box - they can.

    ifb/urko. DNA testing has its flaws - AND THAT HAS TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT WHEN CONSIDERING EVIDENCE. DNA ON IT'S OWN IS NOT ENOUGH TO CONVICT...but...it does provide an extra piece of useful information - and in a lot of crimes it is essential to locating the true perpetrator from which OTHER EVIDENCE CAN ALSO BE FOUND. You are arguing that less evidence is good - you are letting your irrational fears get the better of you again.

    urko: There are no cost problems with a DNA database (unlike perhaps the cost problems of the ID scheme). The database will not be perfect - I am sure some will avoid it - but maybe if people want to enjoy the benefits of society they should have some responsibilities as well. I would imagine it would be very easy to get the vast majority of people on the database (and yes, why not visitors as well?)

  9. Doesn't anybody out there realise that there is a German-run EU superstate being built. It is run on a system where the state is always right and the individual is guilty until proven innocent. We have now signed up to a cross-border arrest warrant. And this thick clown wants me to give them my dna. P**s off.

  10. I would imagine it would be very easy to get the vast majority of people on the database (and yes, why not visitors as well?)
    You have a vivid imagination. Any chance of expalining how, on a practical level, this would work? Will a letter be sent summoning everyone for testing as a first off? Will Police just stop people at random whne they have a minute?

    No cost issues? eh? eh?

    As you have clearly given this a great deal of thought, please explain IN DETAIL how you would expect to implement it.

  11. As for your "irrational fears" jibe, you are just simply a pathetic, patronising piece of scum to keep on with that. You know full well it is you that has the irrational fear of people with the capacity for rational thought you pathetic tosser.

  12. It seems to me that the principal issue about the government's DNA strategy has not been mentioned. If the government truly believes that everyone should be compelled to have their DNA profile registered with the state then it should raise primary legislation to do it. What it is trying to do at the moment is expand the database by stealth so that presumably it can say that it would only be 'fair' to force everyone to be on it, thus evading the necessary debate on whether it is right thing to do.

    No one would deny that a small focussed DNA database is a powerful evidential tool. Whether it will retain this utility if extended to the whole population is not a trivial question to answer. The first question is whether a universal database is likely to generate so many spurious matches that its effectiveness as an evidential tool is degraded. We have the largest DNA database in the world so no one is really sure of the answer to this. Before attempting to extend the database we need to be sure. How high are the risks of seeding crime scenes with another's DNA? With a universal database, would this be a practicable way to pervert the course of justice? We need to know.

    Secondly, a large number of people are instinctively opposed to such a scheme, whether or not you think they are right. Our police operate by the consent of the people; alienating many millions of people from the police may have a detrimental effect on civil society.

    Third, there are civil liberties risks associated with a universal database, if for example, it were used to discriminate against people on the grounds of health, disability or race. Of course such risks can be mitigated by legislation and by constitutional protection but pretending that they don't exist is boneheaded arrogance.

    Now how do we ensure that these concerns are addressed? Well the first thing we should NOT do is entertain notions from the police to extend DNA gathering to those who commit minor offences. The justification that someone who allows his dog to poop on the pavement might become a major criminal is so ludicrous that it ought to have been laughed out of court. Yet this government treats it seriously.

    Now there may be a scientific case for a universal database. It may be that by engaging in an open consultation and devising sufficient legal controls on the use of the data that we can achieve a consensus that a universal database is a proportionate measure. But at present we are years away from such a position. Anyone who who really does believe in a universal database should be telling the police to shut the fuck up so that a rational public debate can take place. Those who support the creation of a universal DNA database should in other words, call for a mortatorium on further incremental expansions in the database.

    But one is forced to the conclusion that the government is afraid of a public debate and that it does not have the intellectual confidence to make its case. From the point of view of fostering public confidence, the current way of achieving the database is the worst possible way of doing it. If you carry one regardless, giving two fingers to reasonable civil liberties concerns, you risk further diminishing the political process and will succeed in confirming the view that most politicians are shifty cunts.

  13. Stephen, you make some good points. A considered public debate on this issue would be great and probably is necessary to make it work well.

    I would love to see this decided by a citizen's jury with both sides presenting their evidence, would you agree?

    Of course there are flaws in DNA evidence and risks of contamination accidental or deliberate has to be considered. DNA evidence in isolation is only circumstantial it would always need further evidence to convict BUT it does at least help us narrow the field (in most cases).

  14. urko: I don't mean to offend you but I find your views incomprehensible sometimes.

    The database already has over 4 million people on it, to expand it to hold 60 milion would probably be negligible. If this is not the case enlighten me.

  15. neil said 'but essentially the power does (sort of) lie with the mass of people - if people want to reject this at the ballot box - they can'

    Put this single issue to the people and I'm sure you will get a clear answer. Of couse you won't because you won't get the answer you want, just the like promise of the referendum.

  16. [The database already has over 4 million people on it, to expand it to hold 60 milion would probably be negligible. If this is not the case enlighten me.]

    Then be prepare to enlightened. 60 million people to be processed. Let us assume that this is to be done over a period of say 5 years. That is 12 million persons per year. Each one of whom will be sent instructions to report to a resgistration centre. How are they told to report? By an IT system. Perhaps another enhancement to the already bloated ID Cards system? 1 million people a month reporting to police stations? I think not! Separate registration centres will have to set up, equipped, staffed, etc. The NDNAS will have to be reedesigned and resized to contain 15 times the data it currently contains. How on earth do you think that these things are not going to cost a very large sum of money? As a profession system designer and senior IT manager I can assure you than they will.

    Those are the readily quantifiable costs. Less easy to estimate will be the costs of tracking down those who refuse to register, which potentially could number millions, and trying and imprisoning them.

    I think you underestimate both the potential opposition to the extension of the database and also the civil liberties risks. As with ID Cards, this hubris is going to undo the Labour party in the same way that the Tories were undone.

  17. [I would love to see this decided by a citizen's jury with both sides presenting their evidence, would you agree?]

    I don't know what a 'citizen's jury' might be but it rather sounds like a gimmick to me. There aren't any quick, lazy, intellectually shallow Blairite approaches to building public consensus on this issue. The issues I mentioned need to be seriously addressed. That DNA evidence may not be conclusive is not the point. If possibly hundreds of people find themselves in the frame for crimes that have nothing to do with them then that will diminish public confidence in the police and detection of crime. It seems to me that the risk of salting crime scenes with another's DNA is a very real risk, and would appear worth doing if the database is universal. We need to be convinced that the risk is either low. Being told that DNA evidence is not conclusive is no comfort. It is no comfort because DNA evidence IS presented to juries as conclusive. In a justice system that could convict Barry George of the murder of Jill Dando on scarcely any evidence at all, the risk of miscarriage of justice must be higher with a universal NDNAD. Let the state sort of the risks of miscarriage of justice before it foists a universal NDNAD upon us, don;t you agree?

  18. urko: I don't mean to offend you but I find your views incomprehensible sometimes.
    I enjoy debating the issues. Debating the issues is not chanting "paranoid irrational luddites" with your fingers stuck in your ears. Will you please stop doing that?

  19. stephen, urko:

    I agree that we need a serious debate on this issue - the problem is our current media (right-wing press bias and shallow tv news) are just not up to the job. It is impossible to sit down and discuss rationally and in appropriate depth the complexities of the issue with a 45 million electorate under these circumstances. The advantage of a citizen's jury is that we can pick a number of the population at random and do just that (with both sides allowed to present their evidence in detail and give people enough time to consider the issues). The results of a citizen's jury are more likely to reassure people than the present 'scare stories' on both sides in the media, wouldn't you agree? I don't see how this is a PR gimmick! Citizen's juries are well established around the world and like the jury in a court - they usually come to a reasonable assessment of the evidence available.

    I also agree that DNA evidence is not enough on it's own to convict anyone.

    The point for me is that we need to be able to gather as much information about a crime as possible and that it is important that the tools and info are available to locate as quickly as possible suspects to a crime. For me, a DNA database will protect innocent people. The use of bank audit trails, mobile phone and internet records etc, has REDUCED the chances of a miscarriage of justice because the more information available the MORE likely someone's innocence is to emerge.

    I agree that the database would be expensive if turned from 4m to 60m overnight. It would take time - years even. There are 600,000 births each year - to start with they could be added, as these have to be registered anyway - I cannot foresee much extra cost in doing this.

  20. I'll take that as a "no" then as it seems as close to a straight answer as I'm likely to see. Time to move on and give up trying to have a sensible debate here - I guess many people would feel I should have realised that ages ago, but as with New Labour, I had hope once.

  21. I think it is through paranoia, irrationality and fear of technology that most 'libertarians' including yourselves oppose the DNA database, ID cards etc, so I suppose the answer to your question is 'no'.

  22. I understand that the only way you can reconcile the fact that people have a different view is to write them off as paranoid and irrational, but it is profoundly depressing to hear you admit it.

    If you accepted we had a point, your vision of a tidy world with everything controlled by the government and people made to be nice and law-adiding at all times would crumble.

    So much of your other discourse is founded on reason, such as your championing of Richard Dawkins, so it's a shame you willfully refuse to listen to reason.

    You have been told ad nauseum, and ought to be able to understand, that many of us who oppose ID cards and the government managing our identity are much more technologically aware and adept than you, yet you persist in your mudslinging accusation.

    In doing so you epitomise my disgust for current party politics - you chant dogma of the worst kind (and in a way you ridicule and despise in others) rather than listen to people with a valid opposing view.

    You also reveal how terrified you are of us - if you weren't, you could accept we had a point. Who is the paraniod luddite here?

  23. Technology has been the main driver of improvement in the human condition and this technology relies on reason AND the support provided by good (usually fairly democratic) government.

    Libertarians who make much noise about the smoking ban, seat belts legislation, CCTV, ID cards, databases etc, while saying little of the much bigger issues related to inequality, raise my suspicions.

    I think you do cross the line of paranoia in your distrust of our government. I would agree with you if the issue is the underhand tactics of our government in cahoots with the US in foreign affairs but not in their intentions on something like the DNA database or ID cards.

    On foreign affairs, our government can act with little regard for the people it affects. With ID cards the government cannot. Our democracy is in decline and suffering from a dysfunctional electoral system and media, but it is still robust enough to hold government to account on something like ID cards.

    This is a government that is overwhelmingly of benefit to the bulk of our population, especially the poorest. Our government is responsible for huge redistributions of wealth from rich to poor (yes even after Thatcher), it is the market that is being distorted to reward those with the greatest power and wealth - this is what we should fear - not a government that is battling media lies and the greedy to correct this distortion.

    I recognise the government has faults but I am not paranoid about it.

  24. 1. It isn't just about this government (as we've said ad nauseum).
    2. Apparently, even this wonderful brave fearless perfect and benign government applies "underhand tactics" but only for foreign policy issues.....so that's alright then.
    3. As for democratic scrutiny, even a blind faith brown nosed follower of the current gang of authoritarian scum like you feels they have been less than straight (do I need to remind you about the High Court and the gateway reviews again?)
    4. I see the technology angle is dropped temporarily, but a new accusation - people against ID cards don't care about the poor. Why the flip would I favour a new identity tax when it will fall disproportionately on poor people?

    There are no benefits to ID cards other than in the fantasy world of their adherents (and supporters are getting very hard to find).

  25. Simply, most Brits know about our dodgy (in some respects) foreign policies, but because we all reap the benefits (economically) the populace is mostly disinterested. Sad but true. People would like better wages for those in Asian sweat shops but not to the extent that they will stop buying the products made there.

    There is benefit for the government in following these foreign policy objectives because it helps the economy which helps them get elected.

    There is no benefit to the government of ID cards (other than improving services for the public which hopefully help their re-election) - which is why I have no fear of ID cards. If, as you claim, they will be a disaster - then any government that promotes them will not last long electorally.

    As for the government being control freaks wanting to know our every movement just for the sake of it. Honestly this makes me laugh - the government are just not that interested in our everyday lives. This is where your paranoia takes over, I'm afraid.

  26. As for the government being control freaks wanting to know our every movement just for the sake of it. Honestly this makes me laugh - the government are just not that interested in our everyday lives. This is where your paranoia takes over, I'm afraid.
    I'm glad it makes you laugh, but it only exists in your fantasy world of what I think. I know you have to do this. make up lies about me and others and characterise us as dangerous loonies. IF you didn't you might have to think about it - and you clearly don't want to do that.

    As for your totally ridiculous idea that governments who waste taxpayer's cash on fuckwittery get thrown out by the electorate, I refer you to 18 years of Troy crap in which they kept getting re-elected in spite of being very crap for most of the time.

  27. christ, nu lab are scum, you don't own me, so stop trying to take things that dont belong to you.