back to article Durham police demonstrate DNA will stuff you

Durham police last week put the final nail in the coffin of the Home Office mantra "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", with a clear announcement that DNA and fingerprinting could harm an individual’s career prospects – even if they are otherwise totally innocent. The warning came in a press release relating to mephedrone, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Arrest you anyway

    I'm more worried about the quote "In Durham police have taken a stance and anyone found with it will be arrested on suspicion of possession of a banned substance."

    This seems to be saying that if they know you have mephedrone they will arrest you anyway even though it isn't illegal to have it and they know that fact. INAL but I'm pretty sure that the police arresting you when they know you haven't broken the law should count as wrongful arrest.

    1. The BigYin

      On minor point

      Until they test the substance, how do they know it's not illegal to possess?

      I agree with the tone of the article, the explicit threat from the police is very worrying and something anyone with a brain could have seen coming. I can't help but think that the police are caught in a legal though (perhaps deliberately).

      If they let people out whilst the substances are tested, there will be stories all over the press about drug-dealers being set free.

      If the police take a harder stance, you get stories like this.

      I am not not sure what the actual answer is (and I doubt we'll get one from Labour or the Tories), but continually kicking plod doesn't strike me as being it.

      1. SuperTim

        then everyone is guilty!

        If the police have to test something to show it is safe, then maybe they should arrest everyone and then just release the innocent!

      2. Jimmy Floyd
        Big Brother


        I don't think the issue is being invited back to the station or even arrested on suspicion. If I get caught with a few grams of white powder I'd almost expect it!

        However, once the chemical has been tested, found NOT to be a controlled substance and I'm sent on my way, I expect there to be no further consequences. Full stop. End of. No grey areas.

        1. MH Media

          Yes, but..

          I agree, but I get the impression that the police would DNA swab you anyway ("just routine sir"), and then release you without charge when it's found to be a harmless substance.

        2. David 105
          Big Brother

          I am being discriminated against as Titles are against my religion

          Isn't that the plan?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      They'll simply clam that they thought it was Ecstasy and arrested you for that, and then found it wasn't.

      It does look like Constable Savage has been promoted to Chief Constable though.

    3. The Original Ash

      I don't need a title. This is a reply!

      They arrest you prior to forming a case, to collect evidence, and to test the substance to make sure it's not controlled. Kind of like saying "No officer, this is some self-raising flour for my mum to make a sponge." and them arresting you *on suspicion* of possession of a controlled substance.

      It's a common misconception that having a criminal record / soft information on a CRB check will stop you getting a job which requires you to have one. It's down to the employer.

    4. Greg J Preece

      Let's test this

      Get some, go to Durham, get arrested, have infinite amounts of fun making them look as big a bunch of idiots as possible. I'm sure El Reg would be only too glad to help out with the publicity on that case.

      I'm free this weekend. ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Title to reply without title

        "It's a common misconception that having a criminal record / soft information on a CRB check will stop you getting a job which requires you to have one. It's down to the employer."

        Meaning that this CRB is in fact a rumour database and acting on rumours is left to the discretion of employers. So the government is saying "nudge nudge wink wink say no more say no more". That sounds like a very useful public service to me.

        On the "if you have nothing to hide, nothing to fear" front, I find this a nice example of lying through truth for they neglect the obvious: Everybody has "something to hide", only we usually call it "protecting sensitive information", and you used to have a right by law to do that, and we called that a "right to privacy". I have a great deal to fear from a government that doesn't abide by its own guarantees to its citizens.

        Interestingly that very same government increasingly refuses to disclose information that obviously should and sometimes previously was public. What do they have to hide from their very own citizens, serving whom was supposed to be their core business?

      2. gerryg

        @The Original Ash

        "It's a common misconception"

        If you have a moment could you pop down from your lofty perspective and explain the common misconception to this bloke?

        I'm sure in the parallel universe you inhabit, he's employed, been promoted and got an MBE

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Steve Evans

        "whitish crystal/whitish powder when crushed"

        You mean like sugar or salt then?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, the irony.

      In which case should the arresting officer not have their fingerprints and DNA taken and added to the DNA register? And seeing as the arresting officer was "only acting unner orders" shouldn't every single member of the chain of command be similarly afflicted by the consequences of their piss-poor decision?

  2. SuperTim
    Black Helicopters

    Taking photos of Mephedrone

    Will the Durham police arrest me if i appear to be taking photographs of a legal substance, presumably for terrorist reasons?

    Also, to use the phrase "they are one molecule different" when the chemicals ARE molecules shows how soft they are. Its like saying that porsche is one car different from ferrari, or that oranges are one fruit different from melons.

    Besides, chemically they are different.

    C11H15NO 1-(4-methylphenyl)-2-methylaminopropan-1-one (mephedrone)

    is not the same as

    C11H15NO2 (RS)-1-(benzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)-N-methylpropan-2-amine (MDMA)

    In the same way that having a barrel of H2O in a car parked near a politicians house is not illegal, but having one with H2O2 will get you sent to the big house in a jiffy.

    Also, since when did ecstasy tablets actually have MDMA in them?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      titular thingie

      Molecular structure != Molecule, there is one more Oxygen molecule in MDMA.

      Oh, and in answer to your closing question, they did have MDMA in them for a very short number of years late 80's to early 90's ;)

      Smiley, cos I was there ;)

      1. SuperTim

        Molecular structure

        They dont have the same structure either. Its not like MDMA with an extra oxygen molecule blu-tacced to the side of it.

      2. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

        Ding! Wrong!

        A molecule cannot contain another molecule as part of its structure; substructures may be referred to as subunits or functional groups. I think what you meant to say was 'one more Oxygen atom'.

        Unfortunately, this is also wrong. A quick search on t'internet will show you that, although these two molecules both have the same basic amphetamine skeleton, they differ by far more than the addition of an oxygen atom.

        Specifically, mephedrone has a keto functional group, which is actually the addition of an oxygen atom and the removal of two hydrogen atoms, as well as a methyl group attached to the ring structure in the para position, as opposed to a methylenedioxy fused ring.

        Given that both are small molecules, and small subsitutions on much larger molecules have significant effects on biological activity (cf. codeine and morphine), I think it is fair to say that whoever made this press release and claimed that these substances are "one molecule different" has absolutely no clue what they are talking about and anything they say should be discounted forthwith.

        1. SuperTim

          Yeah, see? Ed agrees with me!

          There is no blu-tac involved at all!

  3. Neal 5

    Who is in charge/This is my fucking town.

    Clearly El Reg and the Home Office are not in touch with reality. You answer to Durham Police, not the other way around. I am slightly dumbfounded that El Reg has not yet grasped this simple basic neccesity of public funded service. It is of course an understandle mistake by the Home Office that they have not yet bowed to Durham Police being as it is populated by MP's and civil servants, who have yet to grasp either the meaning of civil or servant, or MP's who don't give a toss for the laws, they just make them.

    1. blackworx


      I hope you're either trolling or being plain old sarcastic.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Arrest themselves

    After arresting someone for possession of something legal, presumably the Durham PC Plods would need to arrest themselves for carrying out an illegal arrest: then take their own DNA. Would that affect their own continued employment ?

  5. Fogcat

    They're tiny anyway

    "Its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy"

    Is molecule a misprint? Did they mean atom? Otherwise ecstasy is one molecule away from a lot of things.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      its chemical formula is one molecule different

      Yep I second that!

      Gold is one molecule different to ecstasy!

      Its all Alchemy!!


      Burn them all...

      One atom makes a different, but similar molecule.

      One molecule different makes it anything.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I´m glad...

    ... that I invented a time machine and went back to Stalinist Russia. At least here I have more freedom than in the UK of A

  7. hugo tyson

    Suspicion based on ignorance

    Their position seems to be "we can arrest you on suspicion... because we are ignorant of chemistry, which allows us to suspect that substance A is the same as substance B." When it's not and the law and other matters of fact say it's not. Which pretty much brings the whole legal idea of suspicion into disrepute. Oh dear oh dear.

    What next, suspicion of carrying a knife because that spoon is cutlery but we're not experts?

    1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!

      Suspicion based on mind-boggling stupidity....!

      "What next, suspicion of carrying a knife because that spoon is cutlery but we're not experts?"

      More like arrested on suspicion of carrying a spoon, because it's only one space in the cutlery drawer away from the knives, and therefore carries the morphic resonance of knifiness in its molecular structure...

      I thought Yorkshire was bad where you get tasered for being diabetic... Seems Durham is going for the crown!

    2. NB

      titles are so last year...

      Ah, I see you've played knifey-spoony before!

    3. robert cooke

      @ Hugo

      why not? it's already happened in Tesco's. They refused to sell spoons to a young lady, as they were similar to knives or some stupid answer like that.

      From Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

      [the Sheriff has said he'll cut out Robin Hood's heart with a spoon]

      Guy of Gisborne: Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?

      Sheriff of Nottingham: Because it's DULL, you twit. It'll hurt more.

  8. davefb

    Lets face it,

    having a modicum of intellect isn't a pre-requisit for being in the force is it.

    Or at least Durham it would seem..

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    two tier law?

    First of all: being arrested does not mean you are a criminal. Being charged does not mean you are a criminal. Being GUILTY makes you a criminal.

    Somehow our society seems to have associated arrest with criminality (maybe from the "no smoke without fire" attitude, or maybe because the police treat everyone they come into contact with as a criminal - unless they can prove otherwise), which the fuzz not exploit to the full extent of their ability. So while we have a long standing history of law-making, with over 5500 statutes on the books there is another, undercurrent of law-making with no burden of proof, no protection for the innocent and no oversight or review, namely "Have you every been arrested?"

    This level of policing is much easier as it has far fewer overheads, none of that pesky "due process" nonsense, no having to explain to a judge why you detained a person. Plus the always-present threat of "do what we tell you, or we'll ruin your life". This is much closer to the wild-west form of justice, or of knights of olde England who were trusted with "the right to bear arms and mete justice" with a similar lack of control.

    Maybe what we need is some public awareness that the police do not have the right, nor the ability to label a person as a criminal just by arresting them. Only once the legal process has been applied and guilt proven, can a person be discriminated against. Not on the say-so of some plod with a bad attitude.

    1. Rob

      Wrong planet

      Haven't you heard, on this planet, in this country, everyone is guilty until proven otherwise.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    This'll be the same Durham Police...

    ... where an officer stopped me (aged 18 and fully licensed and insured) six times for the same allegedly faulty brake lights at the same location (I was driving according to the content of "Roadcraft - a Police driving manual", ie. engine braking, no harsh braking or acceleration) by the same officer.

    The joy of having my solicitor friend in the vehicle with me on the 7th occasion :-)

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Me too, long time ago

      Yeah I got stopped under similar circumstances waaaaay back in the 1980s. I drove my car most of the way from the M54 to Chester on the A41 and was pulled over on suspicion of faulty brake lights. In my case though the officer apologised as he'd seen my lights come on when I stopped in the layby. A quick check then and there to show it wasn't a fluke and he was happy. He was polite, I took it as a complement and that was that.

      It was a good job I saw him behind me actually. I used to drive that road like a demon possessed. Still didn't need my brakes mind but I don't think Mr. Plod would be quite so polite and friendly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Numbers and Letters

      Don't get the bit about the solicitor. IME most solicitors have a very narrow knowledge of the law based on their own area of specialisation. Unless of course your solicitor friend happened to specialize in the Road Traffic Act and Construction and Use Regulations.

      It is perfectly legal for an officer of the law to stop you in order to check your vehicle *IF* they have reason to believe that the vehicle has a defect that would make it illegal. I'm sure your solicitor friend would know this.

      And on the subject of engine braking. It is not a good idea to decelerate sharply without the use of the brakes. It is dangerous because a folowing driver would not easilly notice you were slowing. You would know this had you read Roadcraft properly.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson


        for this reason I was taught to tap the break slightly when using the engine to break. Just to light up the breaking lights

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A pointer, if interested

          When they pull you over, don't wait for them to come to you, get out of your car or off your bike and go to them, and ask how you can help. iow take control. Assuming you have sufficient self assurance to want to take control.

          1. Steve Roper

            Re: A pointer, if interested

            In Australia, where I live, getting out of your car to meet the cops when pulled over is the normal and expected thing to do anyway. But if you do that in America you're well on your way to having guns pointed in your face and screamed at to "GET ON THE GROUND NOW!". As my mate found out when he went to the States about 10 years ago and made the mistake of getting out of his car when he got pulled over...

  11. Neil Stansbury


    Unfortunately, the Police never seem to engage their brains enough to realise, that if they are tasked with "protecting, helping and reassuring the community" then that includes protecting ALL aspects of the indiviual - including their human rights as equally as any other right - be it of life, limb or property.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Unfortunately, the Police never seem to engage their brains enough[...]"

      Everyone who's able to engage their brains don't apply to join the plod in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Everyone who's able to engage their brains don't apply to join the plod in the first place

        Have you ever seen how nervous most retired officers are? Many have their houses alarmed to the hilt, and never seem to venture out alone, a few simply refuse to venture out after dark.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Missing the point?

    I may be mistaken (apologies if so) but what the article seems to be aiming for is stating something along lines of: once you are on police or criminal records whether guilty or not in real terms your employment prospects will be grossly reduced as most serious employment opportunities will have some questions about the "police" in your life.

    Those with access to records will see a record. Those with no access to records probably will not want to take on the risk (even HR ?)

    It then uses controlled substances to show an example but I'd guess that the police know far, far, far more than they can say and are using a timid one as a means of demonstration of the phenomena.

  13. Steven Jones

    "one molecule different"

    "its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy"

    I'm not sure how this makes any sense at all - both mephedrone and ecstasy (MDMA) are molecules. Whilst they are related, they are distinctly more than one atom different as well, so the relationship is not the same as that between CO2 and CO.

    (MDMA comes in a right- and left- handed form, although the chemical formula of both is, of course, identical - ecstasy will be a mixture of both forms).

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    the biggest problem isnt' getting a job but it's traveling out of the country when the police "accidently" put the wrong flag against your profile (instead of the "innocent" tag they leave a "caution" or "convicted" type flag, meaning your ass ain't going anywhere without some serious explaining.)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Think some basic lessons in grammar may be in order here as I don't think the headline is justified by the Police statement. Leaving aside any issues on whether arrests in this circumstance are justified for now I think what the police are saying that if you are arrested then the consequences of that arrest are (a) you'll be taken to the cells and get your DNA sampled and (b) the fact that you've been arrested may harm your future. Note (b) is a consequence of the arrest and not the DNA sample. (As I'm half way through "the wire season 5" then I think a visit from some senior hack to deliver a lecture on the use of subordinate clauses etc may be in order).

    (again ignoring the issue of whether such an arrest is justified) the comment that being arrested may impact your future is clearly true ... if you were to apply of a job (or volunteer for something like scouts/sports club/etc) where you need an enhanced CRB check then it is likely to come back with a note that you were arrested on suspicion of possessing a control substance - I don't know the legalities on what weight a potential employer is allowed to place on this but in reality I'm sure its not going to make you more attractive to them.

    Finally, getting back to whether an arrest in this situation is justified ... this is the tricky one. Don't think the line that the police shouldn't arrest someone who says "its ok officer, this white powder isn't the illegal white powder, its the legal version" is going to work. Just the same as its likely that someone setting up a shop selling bird seed and tomato propgation kits is also likely to gather police interest.

    1. Scott 19
      Thumb Down


      Thats the problem they have done nothing illegal however you lok at it, nothing at all, completely innocent and yet you still seem to think that it should affect the rest of there lives?

      If i'm wearing a trench coat and walk passed a school and i'm aressted on suspicion of being a pedo but it turns out i'm innocent should this then ruin the rest of my life?

      INNOCENT until proven guilty, so last centuary.

  16. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    Put THEM on the database

    All police officers/politicians should have their DNA taken.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Great idea

      it'll help them prove that they're entirely innocent, let them screen officers from the analysis of a crime scene much easier and more reliably, and generally make policing that little bit more effective.

      And all MPs/candidates should have their DNA recorded for similar reasons- unless they've got something to hide? And, of course, they should be subject to near-constant testing for illegal drugs (or at least have sniffer dogs stationed at the entrances to their places of work) and have their internet traffic profiled thoroughly to make sure they don't have links to any... unBritish people.

      Also, I'd like to suggest that all government/council/police vehicles and travelling staff have to carry a GPS tracker while on official business (logged against an appropriate ID card and available freely online- well, you'd probably want to exclude some police vehicles from public view). This will stop them taking the piss and not turning up on time, help prevent theft, allow the prosecution of any of their staff members who stray even 1mph over the speed limit (which, as we know, automatically means you've run over a child), and will help ensure that our Civil Servants are acting as such.

  17. JMB

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    This seems a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The police seem to have little knowledge of chemistry but think they are experts.

    "If the police have to test something to show it is safe, then maybe they should arrest everyone and then just release the innocent!"

    In discussions and interview over topics like the police retaining DNA of innocent people it has obvious that they do not understand the concept of being innocent. As far as the police are concerned no one is innocent (except themselves of course) just not been convicted of anything yet.

  18. Eddie Edwards

    One molecule different?

    "its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy and as such dealers are claiming is not a controlled substance"

    I suspect they mean it has one additional atom in the molecule. Table salt is one molecule different from MDMA. Maybe we should all be arrested for that (it's a bit unhealthy, after all).

    Anyway are Durham police *asking* to be sued for wrongful arrest? "We decided that even though he wasn't committing a crime, we didn't like what he was doing, so we arrested him".

    This is why everyone aged 14-30 loves & respects the police so much.

    1. jane 3

      young people?

      @Eddie Edwards

      I presume you haven't started shaving yet? There is life after 30, you know. You might even find that a few of us could teach you a thing or two about pharmeceutical chemistry.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Discrimination is Criminal

    If the Durham Police believe this, then they should prosecute those who discriminate in this manner.

    Failure to prosecute, would show selective enforcement of the law, and the Police would then be criminals themselevs.

  20. Neal 5

    @anon coward

    "the biggest problem isnt' getting a job but it's traveling out of the country when the police "accidently" put the wrong flag against your profile (instead of the "innocent" tag they leave a "caution" or "convicted" type flag, meaning your ass ain't going anywhere without some serious explaining.)"

    No probs there, mistakes have to be paid for, and I can't imagine any police force wanting to put themselves in the dock for compensation claims, especially in the case of financial loss, and for some business deals that can run into more than any police forces budget, which you ultimately pay for anyway.

    Pettyness by it's own nature has it's limits.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Mad Mike
    Thumb Down

    Easy Policing

    This is all about easy policing. Having to prove people innocent etc. is such a pain. The police know every single person (except them obviously :-) ) is guilty as sin and it's just a matter of time. So, bearing in mind proving cases against everyone will take a lot of time and effort, it is simpler to employ half-wits (being nice here) and simply get them to arrest everyone. Then, rather than prove a case, let's just make the arrest an obvious example of guilt and job done.

    At this rate, walking down the street with a bottle of soft drink will land you in the same position. 'I'm arresting you on suspicion of possession of an explosive device'. After a few days, they work out it's lemonade, but the arrest has happened, the DNA has been taken and the 'damage' (according to plod) has been done!!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cornflour vs Cocaine

    Wow, Durham police will arrest people in possession of a 'suspect' drug that it knows is not illegal, it will then use that arrest to taint that person for life?

    And the principle applies to, for example, corn flour. If they don't like the look of you, and you have this suspicious white powder on you which MIGHT be drugs.... off to the station for you, your DNA taken, and a "arrested for suspicion of drug possession" goes on the record?

    THIS MEANS THE POLICE CAN PUT FALSE CLAIMS on the background check. So their records show the person was arrested for suspicion of possession of C17H21NO4, when he was actually in possession of C6H10O5, which is only one molecule different.

    Welcome to Britain, leave your rights at the border.

  24. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Before the police get interested in me

    I want to have my DNA removed now so that the police can't get it.

    Even now, there are enough job applicants so that if a candidate's criminal record check contains anything whatsoever then you are told no thanks and they take somebody else. Really. If for instance I joined a group of people in sitting in the road to cause a public nuisance by way of demonstrating against our invasion of Iraq - I say if I had done such a thing - I might have been picked up, chucked in a van, and got an arrest record. Then again, I might have had to leave and find a loo, and then not bothered to go back.

    Incidentally, I think the powers that be assume that people who attend or participate in one such event do so in all others of the same type as well, all around the country, having nothing better to do with their time, so if you want your protest to be counted properly then logically you do have to go to all of them, which is quite inconvenient. Or write to the Government. Or vote them out the next time you get the chance. Up the Tories. This country needs a new capitalist holocaust that will permanently punish and discourage the political quasi-left and the nation as a whole from bloody overseas adventures, and I mean as in bloodshed. Too many of us supported them and voted for them and so we all deserve a good hard kicking.

  25. JohnG

    Molecules: missing the point

    The big issue is not whether the police understand chemistry and the circumstances under which they arrest people "on suspicion". The big issue is that the Durham police have clearly stated that having been arrested and released without charge, having your DNA on the big database could affect your future employment. They are effectively saying "this is a means of punishment which we can use against people we don't like but have not actually done anything illegal, without the unnecessary complications of a court, lawyers and people's right to a fair trial".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    WTF? i reading the quote wrong or.....

    He adds: "They will be taken to a police cell, their DNA and fingerprints taken and that arrest, depending upon enquiries, could have serious implications for example on future job applications" (our italics).

    surely this quote actually says that the arrest could have implications for future job applications, not the fact that DNA has been taken.....

    if my reading is correct, then the police have talked sense....and el reg has jumped on the story because the quote contained the the text 'DNA'....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Good call

      Good call, this is exactly what the article says.

      The arrest (like any arrest) may have implications for your job, particularly jobs where you do have to disclose any arrests, cautions or convictions.

      This is nothing to do with DNA.

      1. Graham Marsden

        Bad call!

        The point that El Reg is trying to make and that you seem to be missing is that it is the *arrest* which is "on suspicion of possession of a banned substance"

        Note the word SUSPICION there, suspicion is not proof of guilt, you still have the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty and if the substance is found to be innocuous, you should be released without a stain on your character.

        But what the Police are saying is that it is the simple matter of the *arrest* that can screw your future employment prospects, NOT a conviction for any offence!

        1. Anonymous Coward

          I'm the AC above

          I would expect police to arrest someone with suspicious white powder like this.

          The fact that you may have to explain (or at least disclose) the arrest is nothing to do with having your DNA taken, or the offence that you were arested on suspicion of. Of course you are innocent until proven guilty, this is *why* you are arrested "on suspicion".

          Having to disclose arrests for certain jobs is nothing new.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best drug ever

    That is all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      It's ok, but not so brilliant as all that. Nice clear head the next day, which is a pleasant bonus. And still legal, also a nice bonus.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Implications of being arrested

    The US says: "Travelers who have been arrested or convicted of an offense are required to apply for a visa; they are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program."

    Note it's an 'or', not an 'and'.

    1. NorthernMonkey

      Homeland Security...

      ...they're not really the fault of Durham Police!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Police vs. The Law

    Our legal system is such that we have what may be termed common law. The whole of the law fits together to make one big law. There is legislation and there is case law, and nobody, but nobody can know it all. Some people think this is a bad thing because unlike a system of administrative certainty it is sometimes hard to know whether something is legal or not.

    The police are often detractors of our legal system. Having such a complex system does sometimes make it difficult for the police to do their jobs, but that's why we have the CPS. It's not up to the police to decide whether there is a case to answer, it's up to the CPS. It's then up to the courts to decide if the accused is guilty. And we have all sorts of stages of appeals beyons that in order to try to make the system foolproof in the long term. The police will sometimes use this complexity to try to excuse bad practice, look at the crap about photographers and section 44.

    One thing that some of the posters need to understand is that arresting somebody is a long way from charging somebody. Suspicion of possesion of a controlled substance is grounds for arrest. Until that substance has been tested the police can't know if it's a controlled substance or not. If it's not then you will be released, if it is then you may be charged or cautioned.

    Now one of the hideous mistakes our current government has made in legal terms is the enhanced CRB check. If you've ever been arrested but not charged that may well show up on an enhanced CRB check. If you are applying for a job which requires enhanced CRB clearance then this may well affect your career prospects. Nothing to do with your fingerprints or your DNA sample, just the fact that you have been arrested.

    Your headline is therefore misleading, but the message remains the same: What Nulabour have done to our legal system takes it back hundreds of years. No longer do you have to be found guilty by a jury (or even a panel of magistrates) to be punished. You can now be punished simply because you have been arrested, even if the police do not subsequently find any evidence of wrongdoing. Hopefully sooner or later somebody will sue a police force over the harm that this has done to their career. If somebody does and they win it will make forces think more carefully about their policies on arrest. The government will still claim the whole CRB system is a good thing and use police forces as a scapegoat in such a case.

    The fact that Durham police state you will be arrested for possesion of a legal substance puts them on very dodgy ground. It would be interesting to see what they are writing down in their paperwork to justify the arrest.

    It could be that this particular idiot has misunderstood the situation or not explained it very well. What he could be trying to explain is that, if you get arrested for carrying a suspicious substance which subsequently turns out to be legal then that will still go down on your record and crop up on any future enhanced CRB check. Which is true enough, although that doesn't make the enhanced CRB check any more fair. OTOH if he is saying that they will deliberately arrest somebody for carrying a legal substance then he is stating that Durham Police are creating their own laws or to put it another way breaking existing laws.

    Anyhow, the story really has cock all to do with DNA.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @Eddie Edwards

    "We decided that even though he wasn't committing a crime, we didn't like what he was doing, so we arrested him".

    What, like "looking at me in a funny way", or "coughing without due care and attention"? Or "walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness", or my fave "walking around with an offensive wife".

    Think earlier AC (Suspicion) may have been right about the chief constable ...

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Absolute offences

    What seems to be missing from the comments is the influence absolute offences play in how people are treated within the law.

    To my knowledge (feel free to correct me) there are two offences considered absolute, where the primary burden of proof shifts to the defendant; possesion of a controlled substance and posession of child pronography. You either have to prove it is not an illegal substance (for drugs) or that it was effectively planted on you (for both).

    Having a bag of unmarked powder or pills will raise suspicion and until proved otherwise, it will probably be assumed it is an illegal substance.

    As to what happens when you are proved incocent, the government decreed that DNA and fingerprint records could be taken when you are arrested and kept for however long they choose. Maybe the EU can bring some sanity to this part of the equation.

    1. Graham Marsden

      @Absolute offences

      The expression AIUI is actually "Strict Liability Offences" and there are plenty more of those in UK law than the two you mention.

      Originally the idea was that they would stop employers from avoiding responsibility for injuries to workers by claiming that nobody was personally responsible for the accident (no "mens rea" or "guilty mind", so nobody could be charged so, quite rightly, the law was changed to make the business as a whole responsible.

      But now there is, of course, the law regarding "extreme pornography" where simply possession of an image is enough to prove guilt *unless* you can prove that you were a "direct participant" in what was being done. Another examples is selling alcohol to a child (hence all those "challenge 21" stickers) because the retailer has to prove that they did *not* sell alcohol to a child.

      The Government loves Strict Liability offences because they make getting convictions so much easier even though they are a clear breach of Paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which say you have the Right to be Presumed Innocent...

  32. John Ozimek

    What's the issue?

    AC (12.20) wrote: "if my reading is correct, then the police have talked sense....and el reg has jumped on the story because the quote contained the the text 'DNA'...."

    Not quite, although I appreciate why you and one or two others have said this.

    When I read the release, I thought that the way the sentence was structured, a PR COULD argue that a totally literal interpretation of that sentence was as you have suggested.

    However, there are two issues with this reading. First, it merely pushes the issue one step further back: if being DNA tested is not career-damaging, but being arrested is, then that is equally wrong.

    However, there is also the textual crit perspective to have a go at. It is fairly clear that this passage is intended to warn people off mere possession of a substance, even if possession is legal. It is police going beyond simple "enforce the law" territory into something else.

    The language is fairly oppressive: you will be "taken to a police cell" is clearly there to emphasise the heaviness of what may happen. Then DNA. And to cap it all, there is going to be a consequence to the arrest (of which the cell-holding and DNA stuff is a part).

    SO I am less certain that one can exculpate the police quite so easily.

    If you want my honest view of what is going down here, I think that someone middle-ranking realised that they could not brandish the decided to shift into threat territory without thinking first: without thinking that their remarks might have consequences in respect of other policy issues.

    This whole set-up seems difficult to me. As others have observed: if you are found in possession of a bag of white powder, chances are, the police would (rightly) want to know more. Happened to a (medical) friend of mine many years back when he was caught cycling round Cambridge in possession of a back of aspirin powder.

    But just rethink that particular section.

    How would you react if the police issued a warning as follows.

    At halloween, people have been known to wander the streets carrying flour. This is a white powder and, since it COULD be a drug, anyone found in possession of said white powder will be locked in a police cell, have their DNA taken, arrested.

    Is that really what we, as a society, want?

  33. Glyn 2
    Black Helicopters

    extended CRB

    While the CRB check has your convictions on it doesn't the E-CRB have all interactions with the police on it, no matter how spurious? And while the DNA may *may* be removed from the database in 6 years, the fact that it was taken will still be there.

    So all these yoofs they're arresting just to get DNA are going to be screwed in a few years as about half of the bogstandard developer jobs I was interviewing for wanted the CRB and 2 wanted the E-CRB, not even jobs in kid-related areas.

  34. Anonymous Coward


    I'm doing some baking at the weekend, do I need to make sure my flour and baking soda are certified drug free before I leave the supermarket?

    Hopefully someone will wake up and see that being arrested or accepting a police caution as a youth should not result in a life sentence via enhanced CRB check.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    How long

    My brother when he was a teenager was accused of sexual assualt (He didn't it was his friend who ran off after lifting some womens skirt). He was put on a police database. Some years later someone was assaulted in the area he lived in and anyone who was on the database was interviewed and a swab taken which included my brother.

    I would like to know if he can now have his DNA removed from the database or not.

  36. Lou Gosselin

    Things which make me glad not to live in UK.

    Police state and all. That's not what living is about. Why should a people live in perpetual fear of inadvertently being arrested?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police State

    This is damn close to "police state" treatment. "We don't like what you're doing, so we'll arrest you".

    Sadly, most people in this country don't give a damn. As long as they don't want to take E or hunt, they'll let those people go to prison and don't care. Something like 2/3rds of the population approved of 90 day detention without trial (presumably because they think that it will only be non-white people who are likely to be affected).

    Never had any sympathy for the anti-hunt brigade being stuffed full of people who had spent 18 years being fully signed up to the war on drugs, the Video Recordings Act and numerous Criminal Justice Acts.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This rings a bell from somewhere.

    I can't decide whether this reminds me of the past (Fascism) or the future (Gattaca).

  39. Anonymous Coward

    And they wonder why they are loosing our respect??

    Its Not the Polices Job to dislike stuff!

    Its there job to uphold the law.

    anon because this disgusting police state stinks.

  40. Number6

    Packets of Glaze

    I've brought several kilograms of ceramic glaze into the UK from the US before now. I did wonder what would happen if someone decided to check my suitcase containing all these interesting bags of (mostly white) powder. Fortunately none did, and it's an answer I'm happy not to discover.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Implications of being arrested

    The police are just being honest (and probably trying to reduce the amount of time wasted dealing with people who use the 'legal alternative'). I mean how would they know at the time it wasn't MDMA. Also presumably the drug in question has a) never been tested and b) potentially has the same impact (mildish) as ecstacy or actually worse - who knows. Maybe the DNA is held as some sort of experiment to study the genetic profiles of rather foolish people ;-)

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ah gentlefolks that be a question?

    So, you see, now the discussion is getting back ontrack we can indeed see potential for harm even years afterwards?

    One imagines that governance bods consider the laws quite adequate and without hidden consequence.

    On the other hand those employers or individuals wishing to invoke legalistic criteria can do.

  43. James Pickett
    Big Brother


    This will sort itself out when we've all been arrested and job applicants will all be equally unsuitable...

  44. Matt 43

    "One molecule different"?

    What the heck is that supposed to mean? Let's not use the example using the closely related carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, we have a whole molecule to play with! Water is one molecule different from aspirin, which is one molecule different from methane. Let's arrest everyone who has drunk a coke - after all sugar is just one molecule different from a banned substance...

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police State

    As an AC said earlier, "The fact that Durham police state you will be arrested for possesion of a legal substance puts them on very dodgy ground."

    What is correct in that sentence are the two words of my title. What has been allowed to happen over the course of the last 30 years, yes 30 years, Thatcher began the process with her attack on the Unions, changing the law to suit her aims, has been a serious erosion of our civil liberties by successive Governments, devolving more power to a power-hungry police force.

    It has now reached the stage where they believe they can get away with whatever they choose, all outside the law, provoking trouble where there is none, and then arresting the 'miscreant' because he/she, has the temerity to question their tretament.

    I am an annual attendee at a large four day Punk Festival in Blackpool every August. In 2006, there was a huge attendance at the event and absolutely no trouble either inside or out in Blackpool. The following year, the Police 'beefed up' their presence, clamping down on major offences like having a beer in the street and generally being obnoxious. Needless to say, there was then plenty of problems inside and out.

    This year (2009), I was chatting to a member of the event's own security team and they informed me that the trouble in 2007, inside the venue had been caused by Police 'agent provocateur's', enabling them to justify their action. 2008 saw the same shitty attitude from 'our boys in blue' bt thankfully, this year, a new police chief for the area took a sensible view regarding policing and it was just like it had been three years earlier. Trouble free.

    A young police officer told me the only trouble in Blackpool was the usual chavs getting drunk and wanting to fight, the same as it was every other weekend of the year.

    This is just one example of modern day policing in action.

    As Durham Police might say "We have your DNA, we have your fingerprints, we know where you live, where you work and what you like to do. Do as we say or we'll lock you up for a very long time."

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shaky science

    'The release observes that "its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy and as such dealers are claiming is not a controlled substance."

    Methedrone has one oxygen atom in place of two hydrogen atoms in its (illegal) analogue. It is therefore a completely different molecule.

    I can only hope that the forensics service has a better idea of what they're doing, because the Police clearly don't.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Serious implications on current job prospects.

    This strikes me as a senior police officer using the process of law as a threat in order to pursue a point of personal morality. The law is not a weapon to be used in this way and threatening to use it to damage the job prospects of anybody where they know no crime has been committed should have serious implication for the career of the officer making the threat.

    As for the drug, it might not be illegal as a drug (yet) but I'll bet it damages health. There are laws in place to prosecute people who sell dangerous goods to people that don't have appropriate warnings attached. My guess is non of the pushers have researched the long term effects of the drug or packaged it with appropriate warnings.

    If they stick a big red warning label on its saying this substance can kill you or damage your brain, then I'm happy with that. Give the Darwin award to all users.

  48. Simon B

    guilty until proven ... guilty even if proven innocent!

    Durham police - You are guilty even if proven innocent. Is that a legal loaf of bread you are holding? oooh come withh me to the station.

  49. Anonymous Coward


    The issue here is that your job prospects can be harmed by being arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, even if you are subsequently released without charge.

    The fact that they took a DNA sample in this instance is completely inconsequential.

  50. andy gibson

    Seriously, who will this affect?

    Because I'm not in the habit of carrying mephedrone or any other chemicals on me, I really don't have anything to hide or fear,

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @andy gibson

      Are you seriously saying that you have never walked out of a shop with a bag of icing sugar, baking powder, cornflower or even polyfiller? All of these, especially the first, may resemble cocaine enough to get you arrested if the onus is for you to prove that it is not illegal.

      And don't say that because they are in a packet, this proves that they are what the label says they are. I can just see a policeman saying "Well, the label said sugar, how was I to know it was cocaine, so I let them go".

      I've recently sent icing sugar to school with one of my kids for a cooking lesson in a plastic bag (they needed 50 grams or so for to top mince pies). Does this give the police enough reason to not arrest them. I can just see a novice policeman who never cooks (many people don't nowadays) who sees fine white powder that is much sweeter than granulated sugar, and assume it is cocaine because he knows no better. Arrested, DNA sampled and fingerprints taken. "Oh, sorry, the lab says it was sugar all along. You're free to go, and the DNA profile will only remain on the database for six years, so nothing to worry about."


      1. Tom 35


        A friend spent a couple of hours at the police station because he had bought a bag of yellow m&m candy from a bulk food store. He was standing waiting for a bus, popping them in his mouth when a cop car pulled up. The cop thought they looked like some kind of pill.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Buy store bought Mozzarella

      Never, ever make Mozzarella then, it requires vitamin C powder to make fresh, and the danger to your future employment is not worth the creamy cheesy taste!

      Man, first they came for the legal drug users, but I was not a legal drug user so I didn't speak up.

      Then they came for the Mozzarella makers, but I used store bought, so I didn't speak up.

      Then they came for my sherbet dip, and there was nobody but anonymous cowards left....


      If Jacqui Smith dies tomorrow, I would put flowers on her grave....

      .... and balloons, and some streamers and garlands and they'll be nibbles featuring fresh mozzarella, and sherbert too! You bring the booze, I'll lay on the band, we'll part-ay!

  51. ShaggyDoggy


    What about all those guys, who when there was a 'big' rape investigation, were asked to, erm, come forward and provide DNA to eliminate them from the enquiry. 10-20,000 were done. are they now "he's on the database so must be suspicious" ?

  52. nichomach
    Big Brother


    ...of whether mephedrone is harmful or not, this jumped-up Barnard Castle jack-in-office appears to be stating categorically that the police will arrest you even if they know for a fact that you are not in any way contravening the law. As noted, that should be treated as a wrongful arrest, and at least grounds for some form of disiciplinary action.

    BB because...oh, come on, do I really HAVE to spell it out?

  53. The Mysterious Panda
    Paris Hilton

    So when did the Police become psychic?

    I dislike the wording but cannot say it is wide of the mark. If they suspect you have a drug on you that might be a controlled substance then what do you expect them to do, exactly?

    The police have access to basic drugs testing kit (Marquis reagent if memory serves?), but it would be worth knowing whether it is accurate enough to distinguish between mephedrone and ecstacy. I suspect not.

    According to a number of comments here, the story should go as follows; PC 1234 Bobbins stops the local dealer, points to the bag of Bad Drugs(TM) in his hand and asks "What's all that then?". Dealer tells him, "It's mephadrone, innit." Having read the comments section on The Register, PC Bobbins decides the dealer must be legit and above-board, and decides to back off before he brings the walls of democracy crashing down about his highly polished, liberal-grinding, hippy-stomping jackboots.

    Two things;

    (i) the police officer has no way of distinguishing between drugs on the street beyond visual consistency and experience unless they have one of the drugs testing kits, and even then it may still give a 'false positive' (though I would guess it's actually a 'positive positive' in this case, as the drug appears to be in the family that the kits test for).

    (ii) even if they can correctly identify it, there is still the small matter of it being illegal to sell for medicinal purposes. They may wish to investigate that and I do not think that constitutes bad policing or crushing of civil liberties.

    At this point, though, I agree that things go wrong. If you are cleared and released then there should be no need for the matter to affect you again. Notes kept by the Police for their own intelligence are one thing, but for the purposes of the outside world, the event should never have taken place - no comments appearing in the CRB, offence to try and compel people to answer, etc.

    Paris, because she appears to be familiar with all manners of investigatory techniques.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @@anon coward

    It's not an unheard of event at the moment, there was an article floating about the reg a year ago about it. The police not updating their records correctly to show the correct state.

  55. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    When correctly viewed...

    everything is lewd... to quote Tom Lehrer a propos censorship.

    The bigger problem is, by analogy, that context is relevant... although it is increasingly apparent that the context is ignorable.

    I daren't tell you how a bag of flour could be used for terrorist purposes... but, knowing that it *could* be, anyone who fancies doing a bit of home baking is in going to be up the creek without much of a paddling instrument at this rate (yes, the recipe did say "mix metaphors until smooth").

  56. Jason Bloomberg
    Big Brother

    Welcome to Britain

    Any suspicion raised can indeed have an effect on employment possibilities and many other adverse consequences , so be good chaps and chapesses and don't do anything other than conform, be compliant, bend over and take it, not complain, be good girls and boys.

    Take heart - Things will get better once everyone is flagged as a criminal. Shouldn't be long now.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    police state

    Just a thought..... Criminality tends to occur not just where people don't want work, but where they can't get work, for whatever reason. One of the groups that statistically find it hardest is those released from the clink, and even cynical commentators regularly point out that a good chunk of recidivism comes from the inaccessability of work for people released after serving their sentence.

    I'm no expert, and certainly have little faith with social workers or those running day release schemes for dangerous psychopaths, but do we really want to extend this prejudice to those who aren't actually guilty of an offence, but end up largely unemployable ?

    Do you do politics ? Do you need an E-CRB for your job ? Then on no account go to any protest, no matter how peaceful. If you're arrested you know what happens next......

    As pointed out elsewhere, don't forget that this doesn't just affect your domestic employment chances, but your holiday destinations too. USA and visa waiver ? Forget it if you've ever been arrested. Not that you'll ever get a holiday, since if you're affected by this, there'll be fewer and fewer jobs to apply for. More than one senior cop has suggested that CRB's/E-CRB's should be extended to just about all employment.

    Go to and vent long and loud at your MP. Then keep venting.

  58. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


    Of course, if it wasn't a molecule different from MDMA but very very similar, particularly in its effect on the human mind or body, they wouldn't be selling it in dark alleys in little pills / powder / bottles / whatever.

    There was a similar problem with the Dangerous Dogs Act, they didn't adequately specify a dangerous dog. Some dogs claimed it just didn't apply to them because they weren't of the dangerous breeds.

    Maybe the solution is to feed the pills to the dogs and see what happens. Anything that makes a dog sick or dead or mental would be illegal, and we'd get rid of the dogs. Although that way we also would be banning chocolate...

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why limit it to drugs ?

    Although there is no law against being a Jock, any Jocks found by the Geordies will be arrested, have their DNA taken and held for 28 days before being released with a criminal record.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clever dogs

    "There was a similar problem with the Dangerous Dogs Act, they didn't adequately specify a dangerous dog. Some dogs claimed it just didn't apply to them because they weren't of the dangerous breeds."

    I would hope we would accommodate dogs who are so clever as to be able to form legal arguments, even if they do have fairly pointy teeth.

    On the article, does this mean Durham police can now arrest people at random and convictions will follow because the DNA samples they provide are only 'one molecule away' and therefore legally identical to the DNA in the samples taken from the scene?

  61. Anonymous Coward

    Am I on a different planet?

    Answer here:

    My take on the article is that you don't need to be guilty to be stuffed systematically, wholly, completely and career-wise.

    All you do need is to have created reasonable doubt in mid of police for them to follow through (hence the molecular difference example).

    But there are other examples that could have been used and I think one is under age rumpy-pumpy.

    My understanding is that if a 15 year old has rumpty-pump with a 14 year old and police find out about it well then there is a good chance that the 15 year old (henceforth yo) will end up on a sex offenders listing somewhere.

    Also that the 15 yo will assumed to have taken the lead even if in fact the 14 yo was the prompter into having rump-pumpy.

    So you see it is not trivial and there is a strong danger of misinterpreting the example of molecular difference into being the prime motivation for the post. (It reads to me as a justifier that says Hey this white powder stuff needs to be looked at the the person carrying it processed according to procedure. In other words: if the police do their job good and well with an innocent party then the innocent party is going to get systematically shafted and that shafting will have serious knock on effects possibly throughout the innocent party's life.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Baking Powder

    The coke around here is about 70% baking powder anyway.

  63. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Clever dogs

    One of the many, many problems with the Dangerous Dogs Act is that police are taught to identify banned breeds - in a four-hour seminar - from various characteristics that are all but meaningless. If you have a mixed breed dog which is part Staffordshire bull terrier and part some other things but it has long enough legs and has had a complaint made against it, it's liable to be taken off you and impounded because a cop has looked at it and decided it's a 'pit-bull type'. You can only establish a dog's breed for certain through DNA testing but that doesn't matter under the Act - a supposed expert assessment by eye is all it takes. If you get your dog back after months of legal wrangling it's likely to be all fucked up from being separated from its family and confined in kennels... and if it wasn't aggressive before, it's now much more likely to be. Excellent!

    So, the situation's pretty similar to the drugs one, really - it's all about suspicion imposed by meaningless or over-broad or unofficial classification. It is far too easy to get shafted.

  64. Anonymous Coward

    @andy gibson

    Did you even read the article? It doesn't seem like it.

    Imagine this scenario.

    You're out one night and someone, for no reason you are able to explain, hits you over the head with a mallet. You are injured and call the police. Your attacker is arrested.

    In the subsequent interview, your attacker claims self defence. Then you are arrested.

    You go to trial and you are aquitted, your attacker is convicted.

    Your arrest (despite being the victim) now effects your future job prospects.

    It's not rocket science!

  65. James Pickett
    Big Brother


    No-one has yet mentioned (so I will) that the CRB is run by a private company (Crapita) who have so far wrongly identified thousands of innocent offenders. God knows how you correct this, but I note that refusing a CRB check is now tantamount to failing it on some job applications.

    One can only hope that the likes of Blair (either one) get caught up in a similar vicious loop of maladministration.

  66. Anonymous Coward

    Get your facts straight

    Mephedrone is NOT "one molecule different to ecstasy" ... if you want to draw that kind of comparison you should be looking towards Methylone instead.

    There are some serious dangers in undermining the need for users of research chemicals to go and do some real reading about what they are ingesting ... reporting about these chemicals in this way is irresponsible.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      There are - as you point out - serious dangers when people are misinformed about recreational drugs. This is why only fuckwits talk to Frank and why, when I checked your facts I found the following inadequacies:

      Chemical formula of Mephedrone: C11H15NO

      Chemical formula of MDMA: C11H15NO2

      Chemical formula of Methylone: C11H13NO3

      MDMA has one more Oxygen molecule than Mephedrone

      Methylone has 2 fewer Hydrogen molecules, and 3 more Oxygen molecules than Mephedrone.

      Register: 1

      AC: 0

      I'm all with you in the high-horsey "misinformation is baaad, people", but it might have been advantageous if you'd have done some actual research before posting.

      For shame!

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        I like traffic lights

        "I'm all with you in the high-horsey "misinformation is baaad, people", but it might have been advantageous if you'd have done some actual research before posting.

        For shame!"

        Are you a troll? hahahahaha

        Show me these molecules you call oxygen and hydrogen. You didn't even read the earlier comments !

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Shame indeed


        In chemistry, a molecule is defined as a sufficiently stable, electrically neutral group of at least two atoms in.....

        So every substance is one molecule different from MDMA.

        Technically Mephedrone is one atom different.

  67. James Pickett


    "a few of us could teach you a thing or two about pharmeceutical chemistry"

    Or spelling.. :-)

  68. Paranoid Warming Climate Denier


    So basicly, everybody needs to carry with them, at all times, a small glass vial of water and 2g of cornflour in a little plastic bag.

    The processing time needed for the enitre population would be beyond what the system can handle, and, considering current record processing on various gov. departments, the files might never be seen by anyone, ever again..

    On the other hand.. it might put everybody on to the DNA database.. just like Mandybum wants...

    I would say roll on the GE, but the Tories, although better at finance, would look at such an inherited piece of population control as to let it stay in place.

  69. James Pickett


    Blimey Sarah - you don't really want them to start keeping dog DNA, too? I mean, how long before that got mixed up? Could make for some good court moments, though, I suppose...

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrongful arrest

    If they know you have an unbanned substance, by arresting you are they not comitting an act of wrongful arrest?

    Of course, they'll then try in their defence to argue they thought it was the other and illegal drug.

    The job of the Police is to uphold the law, not to try to create new laws on their own initiative: that's for Parliament to do.

    If the list of illegal substances needs to be updated then let it be updated.

  71. Alex Read
    Black Helicopters

    Allow me to correct that one:

    "Employment checks are not linked to the DNA database and employers cannot check if a potential employee is on the DNA database."

    ... they will have to wait a few days until we lose the next set of backups into the public realm to know just like everyone else!

  72. david wilson

    What should the police do...

    ...if they find someone with a powder or pills in suitably suspicious circumstances?

    Ask them what the stuff is and then automatically let them go if the person says it's legal?

    It seems a bit strange for someone to complain that the police are trying to scare people, and then write an article that basically seems to help that process along, with added DNA hype in the headline.

    As a more general point, surely the more people there are on a DNA database who have ended up there purely for elimination purposes in investigations, the less possible stigma could be attached to being on the database, even if potential employers, etc *could* somehow find out whether someone was on it or not?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @david wilson

      What they shouldn't do is keep innocent people on a database for 100 years affecting their future job prospects. What they are innocent of should NOT be relevant.

      1. david wilson

        @AC 00:38

        >> "What they shouldn't do is keep innocent people on a database for 100 years affecting their future job prospects."

        There are two separate issues there.

        It seems to make sense for the police to keep records of who they have arrested, whatever the outcome, for all kinds of perfectly valid reasons

        Whether anyone *else* should be able to find out about arrests is a different issue, but what it is decided that other people are or aren't allowed to find out shouldn't prevent the police keeping records.

        What is needed *there* is some debate about exactly what kind of information other people should be allowed to access.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dogma, stigma, enigma

      "... surely the more people there are on a DNA database ... the less possible stigma could be attached to being on the database ...?"

      True, but I don't think stigma is what people are solely concerned about.

      As the case against Sean Hoey shows there are quite a few problems associated with DNA profiling as a deductive reasoning technique (see for further details).

      The main problem associated with the size and comprehensiveness of the DNA database and LCN profiling is that LCN - involving as it does a small DNA sample - is subject to statistical error. Consequently the larger the DB, the smaller the corresponding sample becomes in relation to that DB, and the larger the statistical error becomes. The result is that convictions based on DNA alone will - as a matter of mathematical fact - eventually cause the conviction of someone who is innocent.

      This is a very Bad Thing.

      Of course, none of this is a problem if police forces aren't using LCN DNA-profiling as a substitute for common-sense and are just using LCN DNA-profiling as a backup tool. Unfortunately there are cases (Sean Hoey's being one) which show that this is not the case and that both the CPS and the police have begun to see LCN DNA-profiling as a panacea for all deductive woes. This is also a very Bad Thing because the police and the CPS should primarily be using good detective work to obtain convictions. Unfortunately good detective work is difficult and time-consuming, and when politicians (in defiance of all common-sense) use numbers of convictions to assess the successfulness of police-forces this tends to exacerbate an already bad situation.

      As far as the Reg. article goes I think it's pretty obvious that the police want us to come the conclusion that after being taken to a police cell, people being found in possession of suspicious looking white powder or pills will have their DNA and fingerprints taken and will then be subsequently be found guilty of something or other and that this will ruin their lives. I submit that in the large majority of cases this is just bluster. No doubt this will probably happen to a small group of people, but the majority of people will do a Bill Hicks - get stoned, laugh their ass off and go about their day.

      Perhaps one day the police force will see that if it's their job to protect people then, instead of locking people's minds in a cellar where they can be more easily abused with whatever frightening nonsense afflicts just about anyone at 3 in the morning, they might show their charges the daylight, instruct them with impartial facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Until then they'll receive the same response that any hysterical parent receives: They'll be politely, but firmly, ignored.

      1. david wilson

        @The Silver Fox

        >>"The main problem associated with the size and comprehensiveness of the DNA database and LCN profiling is that LCN - involving as it does a small DNA sample - is subject to statistical error. Consequently the larger the DB, the smaller the corresponding sample becomes in relation to that DB, and the larger the statistical error becomes. The result is that convictions based on DNA alone will - as a matter of mathematical fact - eventually cause the conviction of someone who is innocent."

        Not sure quite what you mean by "...the smaller the corresponding sample becomes in relation to that DB".

        Clearly, given fixed odds of a false match per comparison, the more samples in a database, the greater the chance that a false match will be found for a given forensic sample.

        It's also the case that the more times matches are attempted from different samples, the more frequent incorrect matches would be.

        But both those apply whether a given person in the database has actually been convicted of a crime, arrested on suspicion of a crime, or has merely given a sample for elimination purposes.

        The possibility of false matches is an strong argument for not depending on unreliable matches, but it's not really an argument against database size, more against the existence of any kind of database at all.

        Presumably, for someone who was actually on a database, the more other people are on it, the safer that person is from false conviction, since having more people increases the chances of multiple matches showing up in the case where a technique is faulty, and allows more accurate bounds to be placed on how reliable a particular technique is?

  73. dave lawless

    Comparison with Nutt

    Nutt was accused of udermining govt. policy regarding drug classification and he was sacked.

    The Cops try it and they are protecting society.

  74. John Murgatroyd

    Extensive arrest powers.

    They can arrest you on suspicion that you have/are about to commit an offence.

    You can even be arrested if they have a suspicion that you have given a false name/address, or if you cannot prove who you are sufficiently, giving rise to suspicion that you are not who you say you are...etc.

    In fact, if you drag the RIP act, the serious crime act and the various terrorism acts into the picture, it is difficult to think of a situation where a legal arrest cannot be made.

    As for the E-CRB check....all information held by the police on a person is relevant for that. Even if you are questioned without arrest that will show.

    And don't forget the new Vetting and Barring Scheme. Even a not guilty verdict does not matter....and that is the one you have to pay for yourself if you take your friends kids to school (etc)

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


      I assume that if you don't have drugs on you when arrested then the police can give you some and then charge you with possession.

  75. Anonymous Coward

    Travelling abroad

    It'll be a great time when most of the country has a "criminal record" - in other words appears on the CRB db for some stupid reason. Travel to America will just about disappear as America doesn't like criminals visiting it's god given country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Travelling to the USA

      "Travel to America will just about disappear as America doesn't like criminals visiting it's god given country."

      Unless of course they happened to embarrass their sysadmins by walking into their unprotected "secure defence systems" a few times.

  76. Ras Sur

    why is what I do to myself their business

    If I want to poison my body I will ,and its nobody's business but my own. Police, more like rogue paramilitarys, c***'s. Why don't they try and catch the F***wit that burgled me or the other c*** that tried to rob me at knife point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why is what I do to myself their business

      Perhaps you might consider...

      "rogue paramilitarys" should have been "rogue, unqualified, paramedics"?

      Plus, the burglar and mugger you mentioned may have been trying to fund their drug habit?

      Apart from that I'm happy to defend your right to kill yourself in any way you wish (as long as it doesn't hurt me).

      Evolution in action.

      1. Ras Sur
        Thumb Down


        Stfu, this substance has not been classified as illegal, yet. And FYI I don't do drugs or need you to defend my "rights". My point, which I didn't make very well, is that the police have invented a crime so as to illegally expand their DNA database and f*** some ones life up for good. Because the fact is they are not interested in "real" crime and this story serves as a distraction for the common person away from their failings. See where I'm going with this. Obviously you lead a blessed life and have never been the victim of a violent crime.

        You, muppetry in action.

  77. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Up

    Drugs man


  78. Steve Roper
    Big Brother

    This sort of thing

    is why I won't visit the UK. I was born there and emigrated to Australia with my family when I was 6 years old in the 70s. Last year my parents asked us if we wanted to go on a holiday with them to the UK for old times' sake. They would pay for it all, they said.

    I refused.

    I explained that the UK has become a police state that now makes China look like a libertarian paradise. My parents scoffed and said it was nonsense, but I was able to convince my brother and sister not to go (showing them articles similar to this one on the Reg went a long way towards that!) My parents were disappointed with what they called my paranoia, but they ended up going to the UK by themselves anyway.

    They came back 3 weeks into their intended 2-month stay, saying that the England they knew from the 60s and 70s was well and truly gone, and how they couldn't wait to get back to Australia. Dad had been questioned and searched by police for simply taking pictures along the Thames embankment, they'd been pulled over and questioned any number of times, and they couldn't believe the number of CCTV cameras everywhere. They told us the place felt like a gigantic prison.

    My uncle, aunt and cousins live there as well, but thanks to Mum and Dad's visit they're moving out to Australia with us most likely in 2012, once they've saved a decent amount of money up. They, too, have had a gutful of it.

    Australia might have its own problems, but at least we don't have a system where merely being arrested gets you marked for life, DNA databases, and a police department that spits in the face of law and democracy to play their part in the institution of rule by fear.

    1. david wilson

      @Steve Roper

      >>"Dad had been questioned and searched by police for simply taking pictures along the Thames embankment, they'd been pulled over and questioned any number of times."

      In 3 weeks?

      Unless they were doing some pretty strange things, that's fairly hard to believe.

      There simply aren't enough police in London to act like that to even a tiny fraction of tourists, let alone residents, so unless they were somehow being followed and stopped repeatedly by the same people, they'd have to have been repeatedly doing something to draw attention to themselves from a series of different officers.

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC and under age rumpy pumpy

    "My understanding is that if a 15 year old has rumpty-pump with a 14 year old and police find out about it well then there is a good chance that the 15 year old (henceforth yo) will end up on a sex offenders listing somewhere."

    No. An 18 year old and a 14 year old - probably. But generally speaking, if the pair are within two years of age, no criminal charges will be pressed (though Child Protection proceedings might ensue). At least that's common practice - I'm sure you'll find exceptions.

  80. Anonymous Coward

    Employers opinion: No DNA = Suspect!

    If you gave your DNA and were not subsequently charged and convicted you are probably innocent and I would not care about the arrest.

    But you refused to give your DNA you are probably guilty of something, even if its just stupid pride and stuborness. Since neither suspicous nor stupid stuborn people make good employees, don't come here looking for a job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mistrustful, judgmental anonymous cowards

      don't make good employers either, I'm glad not to have 'come here looking for a job' with you!

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