back to article Rights commission slams police DNA database advice

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has criticised the Association of Chief Police Officers' advice to chief constables to continue adding profiles of innocent people to the DNA database. The advice recommends continuing to apply existing retention policy until the Home Office issues new guidance in 2010. According to the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    I hope sheeple start to sue

    But in reality the sheeple of the UK are happy with crap tv and shopping. The DNA database is just another example of the UK state being intrusive and generally trampling on human rights. Essentially what they really want is the entire UK population on the database. The danger is false positives. If they think its you that done it it will be really hard to disprove. I really hope people wake up to the State we are and where this is leading and the dangers to liberty.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    I wonder... many high ranking police officers are on there? Probebrly none, but surely if there is nothing to hide....

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    Not until tried & found guilty

    More to the point: a swab should NOT be taken until someone has been TRIED and found guilty. Current police practice is to take a swab when someone is arrested, way long before to court, often when the police know that they are going to release them anyway.

    If the police continue to take swabs: then surely they are guilty of breaking the law and all of their DNA should end up on the police database ?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    How many of us are *truly* innocent?

    Never gone slightly over the speed limit on a road or jumped a red light when you could (should) have stopped? Never cycled on a pavement, or read El Reg during work hours? Never accidentaly damaged someone else's property and walked away without leaving a note? Never dropped a bit of litter?

    Wasn't it the ("Spanish") Inquisition who said everyone was guilty of something, it only remained to discover the exact nature and seriousness of the crime?

    Unfortunately, for a group that is responsible for making sure EVERYONE upholds The Law UK Plod seems to be a bit selective when it comes to self-regulation. I feel sorry for the Bobby on the Beat (they *do* still exist, right? They haven't all been replaced with the "plastic plod" PCSOs - have they??) since they have to deal weith the increasingly-irritated public while the people who issue these instructions get to hide away from the mobs of pi55ed-off "customers".

    I like the way someone on the idiot box pointed out that your average householder reporting an intruder or a burglery gets fobbed off with "short of manpower" bull5hit while Jack Tweed (Jade Goody's widower) gets a five-vehicle snatchsquad following the ALLEGATION that he had assaulted someone... (not saying he did, not saying he didn't, but FIVE vehicles? What was he going to do, threaten to start quoting Jade to the plods sent to collect him?)

  5. Stu_The_Jock

    Innocents ?

    I assume the "innocents" to be removed will not include photographers deemed by short "Community Service Officers" to be to tall !

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    so who in ACPO wrote that letter?

    Lawyer? Barrister? PR goon?

    Only it would appear that whoever it is is overrulling the European Court of Human Rights on this ruling.

    Perhaps we might know the name of this legal giant.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But they're only following orders!

    NuLabour told them to do it, and their job is to obey NuLabour, not the law or anything!

    It's not like they WANT to take DNA samples or anything, and it's not like they're WILFULLY breaking the law to do it. No, they're only following orders.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    nice try.

    It's good to see more outspoken opposition to our fascist bully boys choosing to interpret the law as they see fit but I'd be willing to bet it will have no effect.

    What we need is a govt that actually gives a shit about our privacy and our rights.


    Might as well go live on Candy Mountain I suppose. It's more realistic.

  9. ShaggyDoggy


    And in a years time, when the police hold a press conference to announce that all innocents have been taken off the database, will you really really believe that ??

    Or perhaps they did take them off the database, but store them instead 'somewhere else' ...

    Not AC cos I got nowt t'fear

    Oh wait ...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    criticised ACPO?

    How about prosecuting ACPO (a private company) for inciting chief constables to break a court order? And then prosecute the plods.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    "In a letter to the government"...

    Was it strongly worded... how weak.

    for f***ks sake somebody from the EU comission should come over and witness the data getting deleted or better still type into the database DELETE from RECORD where sum(crimes)=0...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "government of the people, by the people, for the people"

    Oooops, that's America. Sorry. As you were.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    That fight.

    "The police are at the forefront of the fight against crime......"

    If true you'd have thought that they'd have quite enough crimes to deal with without committing additional ones themselves. Still, who's going to arrest them?

  14. dunncha
    Big Brother

    Can I volunteer

    I would like to attend one session so I can register...

    to work with children,

    sign up for a ID card,

    submit to a CRB check

    have my DNA taken

    have my security clearance updated

    have my camera checked

    sign a RIPA authorisation

    Have my brain scans recorded

    my eyes plucked out

    submit semen samples

    sweat samples

    and a rubber glove inspection.

    Then I might be able to enjoy a beer in peace, but only if I have filled out the appropriate form asking permission to enjoy such drink. But not too much because then I will have to sign another form to say I am an Alco

    Well I should just donate my body and mind to the man. Because by the time he is finished there will be nothing left for me to take to the pub.

    The tories say they will get rid of bits of this... Do we believe?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bean counters...

    "The police are at the forefront of the fight against crime."???

    I'd love to live in that area, wherever it is. In this area, they're far more interested in bean counting and cheap pinches. When it comes to serious crime, they couldn't catch the common cold.

    Like the firearms question, the DNA argument revolves ultimately around trust, and I can think of few people I trust less these days than the police. And when trust has gone, we have only our civil rights left to protect us.

    But then, who really cares in this country? Not many in my experience. We have satellite TV, bling cellphones and shiny cars. What else could reasonable people want?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least

    1 in 14 children are being raised by a man who is not their father and readind this now, although it's more likely to be around 1 in 7 across the whole population.

    1 in 7 children being raised by a man accounts for nearly 1 in 3 fathers. That's maybe 7 million men who've been screwed over.

    On top of that, the EHRC has problems (mainly due to their staff being the kind of liberal thinking people we encounter everyday, whose inability to link cause and effect makes for the hard work in designing systems,) so frankly why they, unelected, biased & useless should have any input at all into how the police keep safe my wife and kids (assuming they're all mine :-) I just can't see.

    I think we should have a DNA database from birth, and prospective fathers have confirmation that they are indeed the father, and not just some rich bloke his wife chose to fund her random shagging when she's on oestrus.

    The advantages are massive, serial rapists would be caught immediately. I'm of the opinion that the majority of rapes are committed by a small number of people who do it more than once. These people would be identified immediately. When a woman on a common knew she was to be murdered, all these has to do is scratch the guy and while it won't save her, it means we won't have colin stagg incidents.

    People seem to think that the innocent are protected without a dna database, but the police have to get someone for every crime, with DNA or not, but without it, there's much more subjective evidence to go on.

    Obviously I don't urge the EHRC to thinking logically on this issue, because they're not up to that, but clearly the argument is obvious.

    "The police will find a culprit, are they more likely to get the right one with a DNA database, or without it."

  17. Dave Bell

    Not entirely one-sided

    It sort of makes sense for the ACPO to advise Police Forces to wait for the official guidance.

    There's a lot wrong with what the Police are doing, or that court case wouldn't have gone the way it is, but do we really want them to get it wrong on the disposal side?

    It's like a lot of other stuff: the government seems to never do anything promptly.

    Incidentally, there's probably a grey area in this. The Tories brought up a couple of examples today, of people who were identified as criminals in unsolved cases, because of DNA samples. I don't know if they were convicted of anything, but the arrests were on the grounds of possession of an offensive weapon, and for "violent disorder". The first has enough get-outs that it's susceptible to abusive use by the Police--I've been in a public-place with a bill-hook because I've been cutting a roadside hedge, which should come under the "lawful excuse" classification, but 500 years ago the Scots at Flodden found them violently offensive.

    Calling them "innocents", if you know the details of the case, might be a tad optimistic. You might be able to word the rules to take that into account. But can we trust the Police?

    I don't have any bad experiences, but a couple of times I've felt, in recent years, that there's a well-hidden hostility. Not just the police: the courts seem to have a habit of redefining boundaries in response to lawyerly loophole searching, which seems to warp the whole intent.

  18. EvilGav 1

    @ AC 11:33

    I hope to god you're a troll.

    Whats held is a (usually partial) DNA finger-print.

    Finding a person using that alone would almost certainly turn up dozens of false positives (at least 20 will have a precise match for your DNA profile, let alone the number that will have a match against a partial).

    I could continue this rant for pages, but I find it easier to simply state that you are a dangerous idiot.

  19. mmiied

    re:At least

    I for one would have much less objections to a National DNA data base in witch EVERYboady is but you must rember these things

    1. that is not what this is this was sold as a database of CRIMINALES and they sliped inocent pepol on it after wards

    2. if they want this they should put that in there maniefesto and take it to the country and see they get elected

    3. it would be a maisve databse

    4. pepol leave there DNA everywhere (you hoves up skin sheadings from a taxi and see how meny thousands of suspects you have)

    5.there are rear pepol who share the same DNA (ident twins for one)

  20. david wilson

    I wonder...

    If people in general were allowed to vote on what *kinds* of crimes stored samples from people without criminal records could be checked against, would they generally reckon that nothing was worth investigating that way, or would they reckon that some kinds of crimes (murder, serious sexual +/or non-sexual violence, whatever) would justify keeping samples?

    If a beat bobby chats to people while investigating a crime, should he then force himself to forget any characteristics of people who weren't convicted just in case that knowledge might have come in useful when identifying suspects in a future investigation?

  21. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    An attempt at a NuLabour Police State Summary!...

    So much for attempting to slam police DNA database advice. Here's an attempt to list our NuLabour Police State, starting with some databases...

    National DNA database

    National Identity Register (and ID Cards)

    ContactPoint database on all children in England

    National Pupil Database (another database watching all children)

    National Childhood Obesity Database (yes they watch all children with this one as well)

    The Orwellian ONSET database (designed to predict which children will offend in future!).

    Schengen Information System (lists suspects and people to be kept under surveillance)

    I've not heard of a few of these before today, (like that scary sounding Schengen one). Anyway there are apparently 46 government databases according to the Rowntree "Database State" report. Anyway, in addition to these we have such highlights as...

    CCTV everywhere we walk

    Government Web filter plans

    Monitor who we phone

    Plans to monitor who we email and text message

    Plans to automatically monitor and profile what we say on the phone

    They watch our Bank accounts

    Watch how we throw rubbish into our bins

    Phorm Internet spying

    Speed cameras

    Tax disk check cameras

    Number plate readers to monitor car movements

    Congestion Charge cameras

    Watch our credit card purchases

    Increasingly RFIDs are used in ever more stuff we buy

    Oyster cards allow monitoring of our rail and bus travel

    Store loyalty cards as a way to watch what we buy

    GPS Phone tracking

    Non-GPS phone signal triangulation to monitor where we walk

    Experimental automatic Gait Recognition for Human ID tracking at a Distance

    Ever more biometric ID recognition in general

    Council parking in bus lane fine cameras

    Experimental Bluetooth monitoring to trawl for movements

    Search engines allow logging of what we are all interested in

    Cameras in some jobs watching employees every move

    The Tory idea to outsource medical records to Google or Microsoft!!!

    ... And that's before you add in all the government forms you need to fill in!

    ... and then we have all the new laws they can use to clamp down on ever more people, (Not least the totally Orwellian RIPA which allows public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, including interception of communications). But even simple ones like the Council parking in bus lane fine cameras show no empathy or common sense. I know someone fined by these, for quickly dropping off someone disabled and elderly near their local shops, at the only stopping point that was a bus stop, when they were not even blocking a bus. They got fined for that). Its all ever more ways to clamp down on us all with no empathy or common sense.

    Anyway, perhaps I'm missing some from this list?. It would be very interesting to collect a full list, I've never tried to create a full list. Its shocking how many I found. I know some of these are more research areas than others (in fact all of them have on going research to improve them all).

    Still I think that would be a scary list even if it was half that size! ... The most scary I think are the ones watching all children, because when they grow up it'll mean the Police State ends up having detailed info on ever more adults in the UK, until they have vast details on most adults, which in a supposedly free country is totally wrong. But then this list shows its not free, even though they keep saying it is.

    Anyway, here's the Rowntree Database State report on 46 government databases. (Its the first I've heard of some of them and I didn't list them all here. I just listed some of the more scary ones!).

  22. Ian K

    Re: Not until tried & found guilty

    alain williams: "More to the point: a swab should NOT be taken until someone has been TRIED and found guilty. Current police practice is to take a swab when someone is arrested, way long before to court, often when the police know that they are going to release them anyway."

    That'd be going too far in the opposite direction - consider a case were there'd been several sexual assaults in an area, and there were identical DNA samples found each time. The police have arrested someone there's strong circumstantial evidence for, but he isn't already on the database.

    In that case it doesn't seem unreasonable to take a DNA sample to check against the assailants. If it turns out the circumstantial evidence was misleading, and the guy's innocent, then release him then destroy the samples, but the "no sample until found guilty by other means" would just be giving real crims an unfair advantage until they're convicted the first time.

  23. mmiied

    @ Ian k

    it seames ot me the best soultion would be the USA one where all sample in an active case are distroyed when the find the guilt party and THEN put him on a data base so they can take as meny samples for elimination as they want and pepol have nothing to fear

  24. M Room

    Get everyone on the DNA Database

    Just think - if everyone was on the database from birth we finally track down virtually every crime involving human contact.

    Prosecute the person throwing a cigarette end out of the car window, dumping rubbish in the wrong place, being sick over someone else's back gate and millions of more really serious offences.

    Just think about it - we could all be in jail - last one in, shut the door please.

  25. Mike Banahan

    Why keep the DNA?

    What's wrong with collecting and filing the DNA profiles on all unsolved crimes, then when poor Joe Public is arrested and swabbed

    - check to see if he's one of the wanted ones

    - if not, delete the sample

    Since by all accounts the great majority of crimes are committed by a small number of diehards this would quickly sieve most of them out AND act as a big deterrent to someone guilty but as-yet -unpunished to not do anything that might lead to arrest

    Since I care, frankly, much more about preventing future crimes than those already commited (you can't uncommit them and punishing people seems an expensive waste of time) doesn't this actually achieve what we want?

    Maybe I've missed something ... sure someone will enlighten me

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Serial rapists

    "The advantages are massive, serial rapists would be caught immediately. I'm of the opinion that the majority of rapes are committed by a small number of people who do it more than once. These people would be identified immediately."

    Only if you had their DNA before they had ever committed any crime, because if you pulled them in after say, rape 3, then their DNA would match rape 1 & 2.

    So that is an argument for taking every mans DNA sample as a potential serial rapist without any prior suspicion. But that is just insane! We are not criminals will you stop treating us as criminals? And geez, can't you come up with a better excuse? Rape? Why not murder? Why not terrorist slasher murder of small cute children?!

  27. Dazed and Confused

    @ac 11:33

    Even allowing for false positives due to close DNA finger prints lets look at your case of the woman on the common.

    Image that you had been quietly sitting in the pub with your mates and she'd bumped into you on the way to the little girls rooms and she'd caught you with a finger nail.

    You are going to wake up in the morning to find that someone has broken down your door and hauled you off to jail. They've got a DNA match on you. You now need to prove your innocence. The real murder will now have more time to get away.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    re Get everyone on the DNA Database

    Better yet, the cunning use of discarded cigarette butts will (i) stop people smoking and (ii) get everyone locked up for being at the scene of the crime. Result!

  29. Neoc

    Read again...

    As much as I think the UK's DNA retention policy is daft (I'm in Oz), read the advice again: "enforce *existing* policies". In this, the ACPO is correct - unless and until changed the policy, it is the duty of the police to enforce said policy. Regardless of how stupid it may be or how close it is to being changed. Let's just hope the new policy forces retroactive removals of DNA.

    Disclaimer - I wrote the DNA-tracking system for the state's police force (I worked on a *lot* of their systems for almost 10 years). The policy 'round here is: DNA can be taken from you but must be discarded unless you are actually convicted of the crime for which the DNA has been extracted as evidence (there are exceptions, but they're court-ordered exceptions - and even those must be tagged "for retention"). In other words, if you are found innocent/charges dismissed/etc, the DNA sample (and DNA signature/profile) must be destroyed. However, the police can (and in fact MUST, under FOI) keep a record of the fact fact you were DNA'd (place, time, reason, etc). The paperwork includes a letter (which includes the sample details as a barcode, so to prevent mistyping) to be sent to the labs where a lab-technician must fill in the date/time the sample/data was destroyed, sign it and return it to the DNA division.

    However, once you've been proved guilty of a "serious offence" (indictable offence whose maximum possible sentence is over 7 years), your DNA is free game.

  30. asiaseen


    The problem is that ACPO is wrong, the existing policy is illegal and therefore the police have no duty to enforce it. In any case, what business is it of a private company (ACPO) to "advise" police forces on the law?

  31. Ian K

    @Dazed and Confused

    > "Even allowing for false positives due to close DNA finger prints"

    False positives? Is that even possible? Every time I've ever heard of them being used, DNA fingerprints either need to be a perfect match to prove person A is in the frame, or not a perfect match which proves it was someone else. No "that's fairly close to a match, so it's probably 'A'"

    > "Image that you had been quietly sitting in the pub with your mates and she'd bumped into you on the way to the little girls rooms and she'd caught you with a finger nail.

    > You are going to wake up in the morning to find that someone has broken down your door and hauled you off to jail. They've got a DNA match on you. You now need to prove your innocence. The real murder will now have more time to get away."

    That's a particular instance of a more general case - that sometimes evidence can be misleading - and not a whole new class of problem opened up by DNA testing. You'd need to "prove your innocence" in exactly the same was as if someone had walked in an found you standing over the body with a gun in your hand in one of those old 50s movies.

    Short of deciding "sometimes evidence can be misleading, so rather than examine things closely in trials we'd better stop using it altogether", there's not a lot to do there.

  32. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Heard of the presumption of innocence?

    Because anyone pitching the "Lets put everyone on the DNA database" line does not believe it.

    We (not they of course, they have never committed a crime) are all guilty. And if we are not we will be at some time. So let's get the paperwork started now.

    It is a view shared by tyrants from Cardinal Richelieu to the Cheka. Stalin and Hitler would have approved. It's not about right or left wing politics. It's about the differnece between democracy and authoritariansm.

    The EU data retention directive (introduced by the UK when it had the EU presidency, supposedly in response to the Madrid train bombing, although Spain did not support it) enshrines a similar view.

    On one level a simple bureaucratic device to streamline administration. On another it's a very slippery path viewing everyone as a criminal. The equally pernicious vetting law (what, you decided not to be vetted for your voluntary work. What *do* you have to hide?) will no doubt be as divisive.

    And when you've spent the huge sums of money on this nonsense what will be discovered.

    Well I'll bet plenty of candidates will be refused on the grounds of "Soft intelligence," but not many where a case actually had to be proved. I'll also bet that in several years time a number of quite serious multiple offenders committing either physical or sexual abuse (of children, the elderly or other vulnerable groups. This law is *not* just for the kids) will come to light. They will *all* have passed vetting and are *only* picked up by other means which existed before the law was passed. it will be a scandal and people will say "Why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why" was nothing done.

    As other posters have pointed out people who cry out (very loudly) for these sorts of laws *never* think they will apply to them. When you put a mechanism like this in law and don't specify what types of offences it applies to (remember RIPA was sold on paedophiles, large scale drug dealers and other organised crimes but those restrictions are not in the Act) you bend over for every kind of police involvement.

  33. Coltek
    Jobs Horns

    DNA can be falsified!

    This makes the database useless. The DNA that they hold can also be falsified to make it look like what (or who) they want it to be. Surely this is a good defence for anyone accused on DNA evidence.

    I rest my case.

  34. david wilson

    @Mike Banahan

    What's the privacy difference between taking samples from people during an investigation and checking them against past crimes (which you say would be a deterrent for people who have committed a crime committing a future crime), and keeping data to check against future crimes (which presumably would act as a deterrent against even people who haven't committed past crimes committing future ones).

    It seems just as unlucky/(unfair?) for someone to be linked with/convicted of a past crime as a result of being mistakenly investigated for a later one as for someone to be linked with/convicted of a later crime as a result of being mistakenly investigated for a past one.

    If DNA is going to be used to investigate petty crimes (littering with a cigarette end), that can end up catching otherwise-innocent people just as much one way as another. the issue there is really what *kinds* of crimes justify forensic work on the samples, which looks like a whole other debate.

    With regard to innocent people being accused, that's definitely a two-sided argument.

    If anything, if someone has an innocuous DNA link with a crime scene, the sooner that gets picked up, the easier task they have establishing an alibi, and the more likely that a lack of other evidence could be seen as pointing to their innocence.

    With the hypothetical rape victim from 'Dazed and Confused' who had previously accidentally scratched an innocent person, if the innocent person's DNA *wasn't* on the database, the police would go on indefinitely looking for them, while ignoring an otherwise good (and guilty) suspect because they weren't a DNA match.

    Years later, if the innocent person ends up having a sample taken, they'd be unable to call on the people they were in the pub with to testify about the scratch or their movements that night, the CCTV of them miles away at the time of the attack might have been deleted (even assuming they could remember where they were that night), etc. They might not even remember having been scratched

    There's certainly a case that the fewer samples are taken and checked, the fewer people might get wrongly accused as a result, but that's really an argument against checking DNA against a database of crimes of which an individual is not suspect, which is a wider issue than retention, as it applies equally to past as well as future crimes.

    However, taking the argument to its logical conclusion, it seems rather like saying that the police shouldn't investigate anything, in case they end up blaming someone innocent.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    If the police won't obey the law...

    ...why should I?

  36. david wilson


    >>"This makes the database useless. The DNA that they hold can also be falsified to make it look like what (or who) they want it to be. Surely this is a good defence for anyone accused on DNA evidence.

    I rest my case."

    *Fantastic* case.

    If you'd read the article properly, you'd see it was about the potential of planting DNA evidence at a crime before the police turned up, with that DNA evidence having been generated artificially *based on samples taken from the person to be framed*, and you'd see that it was also about a method that could render such framing open to detection,

    If you're paranoid enough to think that 'they' are going to frame you, then *they* could obviously do that without going to the trouble of artificially multiplying DNA, by taking a sample from you after arrest (or acquired by other means) and planting it either at the scene or on items taken from the scene. *They* could always have done that, and the article you reference doesn't describe a method placing you were under any more risk from *them* than you already were.

    *They* could always have done the same with fibre/pollen/soil/shoeprint/whatever evidence, assuming they thought you were worth fitting-up.

    If you really think *they* are trying to frame you, you'd be much better off having your details already on the database so you get interviewed sooner, when you have a better chance of establishing an alibi.

    If *they* are trying to frame you, *they already know who you are*, and can happily wait until enough time has passed to hamper your defence, and *then* arrange for you to have a sample taken from you, under some pretence or another.

    Not having your sample already on the database would be no protection at all in that situation.

  37. Coltek

    @David Wilson

    Of course they would not frame you.... Would they?.... All I was saying is that the burden of proof could be shifted by just asking if it could have been falsified..........

    Your move Sherlock.

  38. david wilson


    >>"Of course they would not frame you.... Would they?"

    If the police/government wanted to frame someone, they could do it with or without DNA. The possibility of manufacturing (or at least repeatedly duplicating) someone's DNA doesn't take that possibility to another level. In fact it doesn't seem to make much difference to it at all.

    >>"All I was saying is that the burden of proof could be shifted by just asking if it could have been falsified.........."

    Which has always been a possibility for *any* kind of forensic evidence.

    It's just that with the particular method you referred to, the framing *is* claimed to be detectable, whereas with other methods (planting of evidence pre-collection, contamination of samples post-collection, etc), it might be rather harder to *prove* that they were fake, the best you could do is cast doubt.

  39. eg

    That sounds new, following existing rules!

    During the very early stages of the DNA database regulative process the advice issued to police SOC departments was for the police to collect and retain DNA samples in readiness to populate that database, this continued for a protracted period. The problems at that time became one of storage, and storage kept running low, so more storage was purchased where necessary.

    Bearing in mind that as this was before the regulations allowing the police to hold DNA had been agreed by parliament it should not seem at odds that ACPO is now advising doing nothing until new guidance is issued.

    Forget timing, legal orders and guidance, they are doing what they are motivated to do.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    False positives? Yes.

    'False positives? Is that even possible? Every time I've ever heard of them being used, DNA fingerprints either need to be a perfect match to prove person A is in the frame, or not a perfect match which proves it was someone else. No "that's fairly close to a match, so it's probably 'A'"'

    Not just possible, but actually quite common in this country. The UK allows the use of something called Low Copy Number DNA matching, which is where there isn't enough DNA evidence to do a proper match, so they use more sensitive matching techniques with really awful accuracy and contamination issues. But, because it's DNA evidence, the plebs in the jury associate it with the rather more accurate normal DNA matching.

    Plus, even normal DNA matching runs into problems with false positives once you add enough people to the DNA database. Someone demonstrated this by finding several examples of different people on the US federal DNA database with the same DNA fingerprint, and got into big trouble for showing the emperor had now clothes. The impressive claims about the odds of a false match (a) aren't nearly as impressive once you have lots of people on the database, and (b) are probably wrong anyway due to bad assumptions.

  41. david wilson

    @AC 19/9/9 12:26

    >>"Plus, even normal DNA matching runs into problems with false positives once you add enough people to the DNA database. "

    But isn't one of the advantages of having a larger database that it shows such things up, and allows for better techniques to be developed, such as extending the fingerprinting technique so that it *does* discriminate more?

  42. LittleTyke

    Levey heavy fines on the police for every innocent retention

    Make every Chief Constable pay a fine of £1,000 for every innocent person on the DNA database after a certain date, then watch the retention figures plummet. Where the government and the police are right now is similar to Microsoft's stance on anti-trust legislation - until it came up against the EU anti-trust people who refused to be stymied. We need someone in control in the UK to quote the ECHR's findings at the government and the police and make them culpable for keeping DNA one moment longer than necessary.

  43. david wilson

    @Little Tyke

    If the government *wanted* the police to stop retaining data, they could just stop them.

    If the government is happy with things as they are, then they wouldn't implement any way of changing things.

    It's at least understandable that without new rules to say precisely what they can and can't do, people are unlikely to change what they're doing.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sod Off Plod

    As above.

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