back to article Innocent 'terror techie' purges DNA records

More than two years after his arrest and subsequent release, techie and some-time Reg contributor David Mery has succeeded in purging the police databases of his fingerprints and DNA. Mery was arrested in London (at an underground station) three weeks after four misguided* souls blew up the public transport network. He was …


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  1. Greg


    Appropriate footnote, but you put the first asterisk in the wrong place.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I find it astonishing that there must be 'exceptional' reasons to delete an innocent person's bio data from the Police database.

    Natural justice would suggest that the opposite should hold true. The Police should have 'exceptional' reasons for keeping said data.

    Each day I become less and less scared of terrorist nutters and more and more frightened of the Police State the UK is fast becoming.

    The erosion of our civil liberties and right to privacy has now far, far outstripped any real or perceived danger from terrorism.

  3. Chris Cooke

    Scotland's better

    In Scotland you have to be convicted for your DNA to be kept on the UK database. If you're acquitted, it's removed. I see from Wikipedia that that's about to change for the worse though.

  4. Rob

    slackers, put some effort into your lies

    so they are basically saying that out of 667,737 people sampled, in one year, they only made 115 mistakes? surely that's an absurd claim to make, unless they only arrest people they are absolutely sure are guilty.

    That and a supposedly intelligent person saying "data might make it's own way onto the net"

    -by becoming self aware and replicating itself do you mean? that would definately be a concern if my personal information started doing that, the implication would be enough to make you dizzy, or schizophrenic, good job there is no-one to blame if it leaked itself.

    The whole thing just sounds like they are getting to the point where they can't really be bothered to try decieving us any more..

  5. Matt


    Third of the way through reading the guys site and it's sickening.

    At least the Chinese are open about being an oppressive state. Absolutely discusting and makes me even more ashamed of the mindless fascist retards that have such powers in this once Great nation. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so damn inefficent.

    The so called public nuisance was caused by the over active imagination of a group of idiotic flat foots with no common sense. Well accept maybe one guy who was obviously over ruled by his fucking idiot collegues who should all be fired for being incompetent prats.

    It just goes to show the "If you've got nothing to hide" idiots.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone point me to a concise explanation of why DNA records are a problem?

    There is a lot of media concern about this, but I have yet to read a sensible explanation of how my DNA being in a police database could cause me a problem.

    The best argument I have heard so far is that it might be used by life insurance/assurance companies screening for possible medical markers. However I think it is a bit quaint to believe that insurance companies would only do this if a database existed. I imagine as soon as they decided they could get away with it, they would simply offer potentially reduced premiums for people prepared to provide a DNA sample for screening.

    So come on people - why might my DNA being in a police database be a bad thing, assuming I am not going to commit crime?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erasing DNA

    Stop blaming the police officers who took this guy's DNA. I don't know the precise grounds for this chap's arrest - nor do you - but once he is arrested for a recordable offence, the police officers have no choice but to take his DNA (it's a Home Office directive). What happens to it after that is a matter for the civil servants who run the national DNA database, not the police. Similarly, once he has been arrested, the law says that the police are entitled to retain it, regardless of the outcome. Central government no doubt applies pressure to chief police officers to keep the number of profiles erased down to a minimum, so that makes it hard to get a profile taken off.

    The problem lies with the government, not the cops who arrest people and then have to comply with the law and any procedural directives from the Home Office.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More cameras

    Take everyone's DNA, fingerprint everybody, we need more cameras - one in everyone's home.

    Start with all politicians and tabloid journalists. Remind them that if they've nothing to hide, there's nothing to fear. If they do try to hide something then exile them (to Iraq).

    Stupid really. We all seem to be throwing away all our freedoms. We now laugh at senator McCarthy. The trouble is that his sentiment's are alive and well and living in England.

  9. Tawakalna

    "if you've got nothing to hide..."

    ..try telling that to Jean-Charles de Menezieres. Oh sorry, you can't, the supposed elite coppers gunned him down because he had brown skin. And I bet they took his DNA too - after all, with all that blood pumping from the numerous holes he'd been WRONGLY riddled with at point-blank range, they'd have had no trouble getting a sample. Even the Met's anti-terrorist squad could get that right.

  10. Matt

    in fact

    and for all their pointless draconian measures, propaganda and persecution of British Citizens, all that stopped a second round of bombers blowing up locations shortly after the 7/7 event was the bombers own failings.

    Stopping a bomber at the last minute is the domain of fantasy and best left to Jack Bauer. Police should do get off the streets and start doing some god damn detecting, 'coz all police do is make me feel like I'm about to be arrested for something retarded.

    yeah... attacks on our freedoms annoy me alot.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy International says this is nothing new in the UK

    Oooh, which three countries are rated "Endemic Surveillance Societies" again?[347]=x-347-545269

    If posting URLs is forbidden here, I suggest you simply

    google "Leading Surveillance societies" and click "I feel lucky" or take the first link.

    Americans can go ahead and laugh, that country is only an "Extensive Surveillance Society".

  12. Graham Marsden

    Concise explanation

    Watch the film GATTACA.

    Slightly less concise: A crooks sees you blow your nose on a tissue and throw it away.

    They pick that tissue out of the bin and "accidentally" drop it at the scene of their next crime.

    You are then arrested and charged with that crime because they've got your DNA on record and you desperately attempt to prove that you were, in fact, at home, on your own at the time...

    Presumption of innocence? Tell it to the Judge sonny!

  13. Stuart Elliott

    @Tawakalna RE: if you've got nothing to hide...

    Don't run!

  14. David Mery

    A few additional details on the comments above

    Lucy, thanks for the write up. I wasn't expecting it!

    @AC, I reposted the flow chart to determine when a case is exceptional at

    @Rob, that is not correct. The 115 are likely to come from profiles added in previous years (it took me just over two years of effort to get my DNA off). Also the removal is for cases the Police deem to be "exceptional". There's no admission that these cases may be "mistakes".

    @AC, a good starting point is to follow the links in In particular you can follow the links to the consultation document from the Nuffield Council, my response to the consultation and lots of very good info from GeneWatch, or just go to GeneWatch at (or wait for the full report published tomorrow - Also see to read about what happened to David Atkinson. For a look at it from a human rights point of view, Justice made an interesting analysis I quoted/summarised in

    @AC, the retention guidelines are defined by the Association of Chief Police Officers. "Chief Officers have the discretion to authorise the deletion of any specific data entry on the PNC 'owned' by them. They are also responsible for the authorisation of the destruction of DNA and fingerprints associated with that specific entry. It is suggested that this discretion should only be exercises in exceptional cases." (from So the Police are responsible. The Home Office is responsible for the laws enabling this situation.

    As for not knowing the ground for arrest. I published them on the page linked by Lucy. The Police in the IPCC supervised enquiry mostly agree with my version of the events. So even if you don't trust me, you can have a good confidence in it.

    @Tawakalna, it would seem that the Police didn't take DNA samples of Jean Charles de Menezes as the family has said that they had to exhume the body to take DNA samples to clear Jean of a false accusation of rape.

    br -d

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Yeah don't run from a bunch of random guys shouting at you on the tube.


    As to the problem with the government keeping your DNA, I'm getting tired of trying to explain it to backwards retards.

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. " Benjamin Frankilin. Your DNA is your marker, once you have been indexed you can be tracked down like a dog.

    A free society should not be ruled by the fear of persecution but by the desire to sttrive ever forward.

    If the reason you are not commiting crimes is becouse you know the police can track you down then you are already in a cage. You're already a prisoner of your government forced to comply becouse you are too scared, not becouse commiting a crime is morally wrong, not becouse you are a good person.

    Laws are to convict those who commit crime, and the Police Forces job is to track down criminals and gather evidence.

    There have been a number of nations that have opted to monitor their citizenships as much as Britain is now monitoring us, and none of them have been happy places, and most are still bearing the scars. (Germany, Korea, China, Russia, Eastern Europe, Iraq, Cambodia, Vietnam, Zimbabwa, etc...) fortunately I'm starting to earn enough and soon enough will know a foreign language so I can wave Britain a no longer fond fairwell.

    It is both sad and discusting that we the people have allowed and continue to allow our once great nation to fall ever further from grace.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Concise: I don't want to be prosecuted for crimes

    "Can someone point me to a concise explanation of why people (you included) don't give their names in elReg posts?"

    A fuller explanation

    I don't want my DNA on record because it would make me more likely to be prosecuted for crimes. The interests of the police are to prosecute crimes, the interests to me, is that they don't prosecute *me* for those crimes.

    *I* know I'm innocent of being a criminal, so the risk of arrest for me is:

    1. I piss someone important off and it's malicious prosecution. Usually this is minor for me, e.g. I received an unrelated fine from the town hall the day after I challenged one of their decisions and had to also get the fine overturned too, it's just unprofessional, but normal human nature, blowback or backlash. Are the McCanns guilty, or did they just just give Portugal a bad name and got some backlash as a result?

    2. I was present at the crime scene (e.g. before or after ). The risk here is that I'm the best bet for a conviction, e.g. some of my DNA could be found on a letter in vandalized letterbox, which makes me the easiest person to arrest. Erm, didn't something similar happen recently?

    3. An error in sampling or measurement or science. They don't record DNA they record markers, the science says that individuals mostly don't have the same markers (on their database so far there's no perfect duplicates that aren't the same person they claim), but multiple people could have the same markers and the more people at a crime scene the less the DNA samples are worth anything and the more it's open to 'interpretation'. It's not in my interests to permit 'interpretation'.

    4. I'm not prosecuted, only suspected, and land on one of their databases. Now that we have free sharing of even the 'non conviction' data throughout Europe and no way to get errors removed, I don't want that to cloud my future life. If the database tells you I'm a suspected murderer and you find my fingerprints at a murder scene, would you not be more likely to build a case against me? You would not know that the reason I'm on the database was erroneous because the database is incomplete information without full context.

    5. I am guilty but its a non 'tony' crime. e.g. I had flem in my mouth and had to spit. A pissed off one of those 'council cop' decides he's going to use that new DNA database to prosecute spitters and chewing gum users.

    6. I'm being prosecuted because it fits a political agenda. e.g. 10000 people had their cars confiscated by customs and excise for smuggling in tobacco or alcohol for resale in the UK. Not really, there was almost no evidence of this 'reselling', their cars were seized because UK wants to impose a limit on personal imports, but it's not legal under EU free trade laws, so they did that as a warning to Brits not to exercise their EU rights and not exceed the 'limits' that aren't 'limits'. i.e. prosecutions for political agendas rather than the offence supposedly being prosecuted. Again not in my interests to help them misuse their powers.

    In a confrontational system that exists in the UK (and many places), you don't help the police to prove your innocences, you 'fight' the case being built against you by the police.

    But there's one more point I want to me. All men are created equal. Even the police, even Turd Tony. ALL MEN. When information can be given to SOME men but not to ALL MEN then there's something wrong with giving that information. Why exactly can that information be shared with some but not all men, if all men are equal? Sharing that information with that subset of people elevates them above you.

  17. peter

    RE: Erasing DNA

    Ah the Nuremberg defense

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In answer to "why DNA records are a problem"

    I note that someone posted a message with the title "Can someone point me to a concise explanation of why DNA records are a problem?" anonymously ,so I guess he must have something to hide ????????? Can we assume that because you posted anonymously that you have something to hide ?.

    The reason I say this is because you, the poster of the message, try to aver that because we dont all want out DNA on the database of the most corrupt organisation in the UK, the Police, that we have something to hide. Im saying to you ,you must have something to hide to remain anonymous !.

    The reason most people dont want their DNA on the database held by the police has nothign to do with their guilt or anything to hide, but has a lot to do with the fact that many people do not trust the Police anymore. They kill people without reason and then get away scot free with it. They lie and cheat all the time. None of them wish to be held accountable. There have been numerous instances of "fit ups" by the Police of innocent people etc etc etc. THAT is why we do not want the police holding a DNA database on us.

  19. Morely Dotes

    Here's your nightmare scenario

    "So come on people - why might my DNA being in a police database be a bad thing, assuming I am not going to commit crime?"

    So assume the police have your DNA.

    Someone in your office hates you. They collect a bit of your DNA through the obvious methods (e.g., going through your trash), and then attach that DNA to something the police are likely to find incriminating, say, a bottle of liquid explosive (which, of course, doesn't exist escept in the fevered imaginations of the same police...).

    Then plant the evidence in the Tube, find a pay phone and call in a bomb threat for that station. PC Plod arrives, finds the bottle, submits it to the lab for possible DNA matching.

    Next thing you know, you've been done for terrorism and have no idea what happened.

  20. Maty

    nothing to hide

    The problem with giving the police your fingerprints, DNA, and access to your bank records and details of your phone calls and movements is that you create a society in which total control is possible at a level that Stalin and or Orwell did not dream of.

    And we are fast approaching that point. Now I believe many things about our government, but not that they intend a totalitarian state for Britain. Their attitude is 'If we know everything about you, we can help you. If we know everything about everyone else, we can protect you.' And my, don't the great British public buy that line?

    But we have built the apparatus of a police state. We might yet slide into becoming one.

    For our own good, naturally.

  21. Jim Cosser

    @ Chris Cooke

    "In Scotland you have to be convicted for your DNA to be kept on the UK database. If you're acquitted, it's removed. I see from Wikipedia that that's about to change for the worse though."

    I hope you weren't reading that Wikipedia entry on a train or your likely to feel the full force of UK justice!

  22. Johan Bastiaansen

    He got away lucky

    He could have gotten a couple of bullets in the brain.

  23. Tom Adair

    False positives

    The commonly quoted chance of your DNA being confused with someone elses through the forensic tests is 1 in a billion. So this means that you could potentially have the same DNA markers as at least 5 other people in the world.

    With the current situation you could be the only match on file, even if you are innocent, but once you start including everyone (I haven't done statistics since my A-Levels, but I'm sure with a sample set of 50-60 million, the chance of any two people matching at odds of 1 in 1 billion is feasible) you could have the police chasing multiple suspects for one sample (which could concievably destroy the faith of the court system in DNA evidence, or at the least have two expert witnesses arguing over the issue, confusing juries).

    I've also watched Gattaca as mentioned by a previous poster, in summary, the plot revolves around genetic identity theft by a 'normal' to pass himself off as 'enhanced' in a world where pre-natal genetic enhancement (for the rich) and genetic discrimination are rife. The protagonist accomplishes this by leaving hair and skin cell samples of his accomplices DNA around his workstation (which is rigorously checked by the employer to root out these identity thieves), cleaning up his DNA, and having a false fingertip to give a blood sample when required.

    While this would require a criminal to remain at a crime scene for some time to remove his/her DNA and leave samples of his target, it is possible. Looking on wikipedia, one person actually tried to fake DNA evidence in 1992, a Dr. John Schneeberger in Canada, who was able to give blood samples that were not his own through a surgically inserting a Penrose drain (a rubber tube normally used to drain fluids from a wound) into his arm.

    Hopefully so long as DNA never achieves a perceived status of being superior to any contradictory evidence, such as non-DNA forensics, alibis/witnesses and CCTV, this won't be able to be pulled off, but I have little faith in that.

  24. Roger Paul

    Tell you what...

    Once every member of the Police force including Community Support Officers and Street Wardens, every member of the Fire Service, every Doctor, Nurse and Porter, every Judge, every Council worker and every Politician has been sampled and tagged, once all these people with nothing to hide have been added to the database...

    Then, and only then, will I even consider submitting to a DNA sampling without protest.

  25. Matt


    ACtually the chances are far higher if I recall then 1 in a billion becouse one as certain markers are taken, the chances are in the one to million and chances going well up in case of being related.

    Also you assume that your DNA is going to be labeled correctly (which infact in this case the DNA wasn't even labeled correctly - it said he'd been convicted) and that the right dna is going to be placed against your data. Even if the information is incorrect you'll have a whale of a time proving that the computer is wrong.

    "But that's not my dna"

    "well the computer says it is"

    "well it's not, here's the evidence"

    "Doesn't matter sonny, all I need is the computer or an exceptional circumstance to get the computer fixed, and you son arn't exceptional."

    Our police do repeatedly show themselves as being more then willing to ignore contradictory evidence in order to push up figures when there's an easy get out clause.

    And yeah someone posted their own story about the letter box, shambolic and yet another example of the UK police forces "o look we've got dna evidence".

  26. Chris

    David Atkinson

    Is the name you're looking for an explanation of why it's not a good thing that your DNA data is on a police database:

    You see, once a match to you is found from a sample retrieved from a crime scene the onus is then on you to prove you're innocent, which is completely backwards. It doesn't matter how your DNA found itself at the crime scene as is clear from the David Atkinson case.

  27. Stu

    Get Real

    Some people here have shabby, ill-informed little prejudices against a group of workers, most of whom are decent, well-motivated people simply trying to do a good job for the people they serve. I'm referring to the police. Perhaps they think it makes them look cool or streetwise, rather than just infantile.

    I've done 30 years in the job and managed to get through that without using any kind of weapon against anyone (firearm, CS spray, or baton), even when subjected to some pretty nasty violence. I never fitted anyone up, nor did I indulge in anything remotely corrupt - apart from once accepting a free cup of coffee from a restaurant owner while taking a statement from him. But I have helped rescue people from burning buildings, given the kiss-of-life to a drowned teenager and persuaded someone on a bridge not to end their life.

    I'm a staunch supporter of campaigns against ID cards, excessive public surveillance and now this ghastly idea of taking everyone's DNA, innocent or guilty, and I am happy to speak up when my colleagues step out of line and let us all down. I didn't join the job to bully people, but to police with the consent of the decent, law-abiding majority and to lock up the tiny minority who threaten their safety and make their lives a misery. Fortunately, and in spite of all our shortcomings, most people DO trust the police and they have every reason to do so.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Get Real

    Well I think most will agree with you, not that anyone will read this now.

    I have no respect for the police myself, but do have great respect for the uniform and the warrant card.

    Ask me to do something or instruct me on some way and I will stop my car, or let you into my house or assist you in anyway possible, but there is still the issue of taking part in defiling peoples humans rights in terms of DNA sampling of children and then storing those records along with familial matching to catch suspects without any other evidence.

    So again I respect the uniform and the powers but not the person because I don't know anything about them whatsoever.

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