09 June 2008

Innocent until proven guilty - unless you're on the DNA database

Apparently the only protection for innocent people who have had their DNA details stored against their will is the European Court. The EC's Grand Chamber of Human Rights is to hear the case of two men in Sheffield who were arrested in 2001 and had their fingerprints and DNA samples taken. Although they were cleared of any crime, their samples were not removed from the database.

Mr Lake, Lincolnshire's Chief Constable and former chairman of the database, is concerned that the removal from the database of the DNA details of all those who were arrested but not convicted will prevent the detection of some of the most serious crimes.

I am concerned about the principle which underpins our system of justice - that we are innocent until proven guilty. If Britain's National DNA database is populated primarily by those who have committed crimes, it is not unreasonable for those who, in the eyes of the law, have not committed any crime to want their details removed.

The purpose of the database is clearly to help find criminals. The more information the police have, the better they can do the job of finding criminals. The issue is of balancing one human right (to privacy) against another (freedom from harm).

The question is: Do we want a database which holds the DNA details of every one of us - or not?