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More database fun

By ATWadmin On February 28th, 2008

Thousands of DNA samples taken from criminals have been filed under the names of innocent people, it was revealed yesterday.

There are 550,000 false, misspelt or incorrect names on the Government’s vast DNA database, which contains more than 4million samples.

That means one in every eight records is thought to be inaccurate.

[…]

Most alarming is the revelation that many criminals are using other people’s names if they are caught.

Home Office Minister Meg Hillier gave the example of somebody who was arrested, and gave their sister’s name.

"That data would be on the database," she told MPs.

Politicians are worried that people could be charged with crimes they have not committed if DNA belonging to a criminal who gave their name later turned up at a crime scene.

It was stressed that innocent people could provide an authentic sample of their own DNA to prove it did not match.

However, they would still be forced to undergo the stress and humiliation of a criminal investigation.

Presumably, the police could quite easily verify someone’s identity, simply by searching them. After all, they managed it when they arrested Euan Blair.

But, in over half a million cases, they simply haven’t bothered, but have stored the DNA, without knowing for sure whether it actually belongs to the person they think it does.

And some among us want to give these idiots a database containing the DNA of every man, woman, and child in this country! Still, we shouldn’t be too worried: on the basis of this showing, the Plods would struggle to organise a piss-up in a brewery, let alone a DDR-style police state…

Hat-tip: House of Dumb

19 Responses to “More database fun”

  1. Yeah, those stupid plods eh. The ones who caught a slew of revolting criminals this week – including one who cried like a baby when he knew the DNA they took would lead to his being connected to a crime no matter what name he gave! Those stupid plods, the ones who got a round of applause in court from the families of those killed by woman hater Levi Bellfield. Yep the stupid, stupid illiterate plods, what good is the silly old database.

    I really hope and pray that the Right don’t sneak back into power anytime in the next 50 years with this genius approach they have to …everything.. simply because they are too cheesed off about a lack of power to extend their thinking beyond the utterly pathetic.

    Course when we get ID cards they can match the DNA up nicely enough and get the spelling right! Wow! Which is why most civilised countries don’t have a pathetic issue with the little issue of ID either.

  2. The problem most have with the present DNA database is the fact that it is a case of ‘once on. only off after a legal battle with a Chief Constable’, themselves not a breed well-known for their libertarian views.

    If a person is involved, even innocently, in a criminal incident, his or her detailed DNA profile is forever slotted into the National Database, and, as can be seen from the latest EU Human rights court battle, hardly ever get expunged.

    Don’t the apologists for this slide into Totalitarianism understand that, once ‘Big Brother’ knows all about a person, the next logical step is to control that same person absolutely!

    I mean, can’t you understand that this person is on the fast track to run the E.U. as President; and would you like him to know all about you?

  3. So the right are now in favour of ID cards for all as this would solve this problem?

    Of course you could also just charge the criminal with attempting to pervert the course of justice the second time he/she is caught and it emerges they lied first time around.

  4. Garfield

    Dunno who your question is actually to? But I’ve always been in favour of ID cards. It’s not really a left right issue but the Right seem determined to make it so. I find people’s propensity to dismiss the obvious successes in using it usually only revolves around a rather churlish argument about a "slide into totalitarianism". Complete bollocks of course

  5. Yes, Alison, those stupid Plods: after all, what better word is there to describe people who have made so many mistakes? Was recording over half a million details wrongly a stroke of genius?

    As for the stories of heroic Plods using the database to catch a few criminals: well, if it’s a choice between Levi Bellfield going free, and compulsory ID cards and DNA databases for all, then I’d happily see Bellfield go free. Reducing or solving crime should not be the sole, or the primary, aim of public policy, and there is no good reason to force law-abiding citizens to submit to the surveillance and infringement of their liberty that you seem to favour, simply in order to help Plod solve a few crimes.

    Although, if the Plods really want to reduce crime, they could start by going back on the beat (and on foot, not in their cars), by responding to crime when it happens, by showing a bit of respect for the general public, and by siding with the victims of crime, rather than with its perpetrators. Hey, maybe if they did all that, then they might find that the "need" for compulsory DNA databases was reduced!

    "I really hope and pray that the Right don’t sneak back into power anytime in the next 50 years with this genius approach they have to …everything.. simply because they are too cheesed off about a lack of power to extend their thinking beyond the utterly pathetic."

    I thought you told Garfield that "the Right" was determined to make this a right-left issue. And yet here, you seem to be doing so, before anyone from "the Right", had had a chance to do so.

    In any event, I don’t think it’s a left-right issue: not many on the left are all that keen on databases and ID cards either. Really, support for such things is drawn primarily from the kind of people who say things like "if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear". Thankfully, those people, while more numerous than I would like, seem to be in a minority, at least as far as ID cards are concerned.

  6. Whatever happened to simple finger printing for people who are arrested for crimes? Aren’t those unique enough to identify a individual? I can understand obtaining a DNA sample from suspects in sex crimes or murders (maybe), but I don’t see the advantage for that type of personal intrusion for other suspected criminals, much less for people who are arrested under suspicion, but not charged with a crime. Do you think DNA collection is appropriate for the guy who gets arrested for unpaid parking tickets?

    What exactly is the point of the government having every citizen’s DNA in a database? Sounds Orwellian to me.

    We are moving towards, what some people call, a National ID card here that is being implemented on a state level through our Driver’s License Bureaus. What it accomplishes is a level of uniformity across state lines for ID cards (or drivers licenses) confirming a citizen’s legal residence, valid social security number and valid address. At the moment, our states have different levels of criteria required to obtain a state ID and many don’t check the validity of the paperwork. By moving to a national norm, all jurisdictions throughout the country will be able to ascertain with a glance a person’s legal status with some level of assurance. They are no fingerprint, DNA, or retinal scan requirements to obtain an ID. If these IDs are collated into a national database it could help law enforcement to track down criminals who cross state lines. I think this form of ID is long overdue.

  7. FR

    You’re right I did perhaps its because the Right are so totally stuck on stupid right now.

    Not the police. Or maybe you don’t watch the news and don’t have any sympathy for victims of crime on our screens this week. Yeah, that’s it. Perhaps you can explain how an officer on the beat would have unequivically stopped those heinous crimes you’ve ignored which made use of this incredible technology. Like the opportunistic crime related to Sally Anne outside her own home?

  8. Gotta love Alison’s last comment there.

    ‘The Right will be making this issue a left-right issue! Oh no, it seems the only person who’s talked about this being a left or right issue is…me. Urm, everyone else is stuck on stupid!’

  9. Oh Happy what an argument you laid out there! Yep, I take that back, sort of but not totally. The ONLY reason this is being attacked as a viable option in crime detection is precisely because it’s under a left-wing government bla bla slide into totalitarianism etc etc zzzzz. The police are all stupid etc etc. That’s the reason i picked up on it.

    Garfield’s challenge was that the Right are into ID cards all of a sudden which they aren’t.

    But seriously is that the best you and FR can come up with? I mean where is the meat in this argument against?

  10. Alison,

    Perhaps some of the argument is that the ‘anti’s’ regard themselves as individuals, and not part of the collective to be numbered, labelled, – and who knows, even branded.

    I appreciate that the possesion for an ID card may make you feel as though you ‘belong’ and are one of the ‘good guys’, but I can assure you that such devices as ID cards and databases are not being touted for your benefit and wellbeing.

    Have we not already forfeited enough in the name of so-called ‘security’? or will you not be happy until all ‘citizens’ – those with ID cards, are all locked up in walled enclaves every night – for their ‘protection’, against the evildoers of the world. The line has to be drawn somwhere, and it may as well be here, over ID cards as later, when it will be even harder to say nay…

    That many other European countries already have, and have had ID cards for long time, – and with seemingly little beneit, – is no reason why it is necessaily right for the UK. We have had them in the past, and they have correctly been seen to be uneccessary in a free society, and were discarded, (now isn’t that a great pun?) it is only seen otherwise in those countries that have a long history of collective socialism, i.e. most of our partners in the EU.

    Besides, whatever expensive gimmickry the government comes up with, it will only be a matter of days before the forgeries will appear on the street, rendering the whole excercise invalid as well as unecessary.

    Re the DNA database, by all means log those that are guilty of criminal acts, – if for no other reason, than as part of their punishment, but I can see no reason for ordinary citizens to be added.

    If it is generally seen as such a good thing, then make it voluntary, such a great idea is bound to have almost universal support! ??

    You may well feel that it is a small matter to get excercised over, but there are many who are not so casual about sacrificing even the smaller freedoms to a government which seems determined to become a part of the US of Europe, and thereby associating us all with doctrines that appears to have little or no respect for the individual.

    We, as a country have fought to protect all of our freedoms, and at great cost, too great a cost to even give up the small things that you perceive as inconsequential.

    Call it stubborness, pigheaded, or whatever, but it is all part of what makes what is sometimes called ‘Britishness’ – we are ‘freemen’ – aren’t we designated so in the Magna Carta? – if it isn’t, well it should be…and be damned to any government that tries to make it otherwise.

  11. Just had the strange experience of agreeing with George Galloway over ID cards.

    He propounds that the government is just not to be trusted with the handing and safekeeping and fair administration of any database, let alone one with such profound consequences as a DNA one.

    He added that criminals are already savvy enough to collect cigarette ends and other such detritus from public places, and are scattering these at crime scenes to confuse the effective use of DNA in solving crime… it says much if even the dreaded Galloway can see the stupidity of such a scheme…

  12. Alison:

    "Or maybe you don’t watch the news and don’t have any sympathy for victims of crime on our screens this week. Yeah, that’s it."

    Do you not recognise that one can object to infringements of one’s freedom (which is what being forced to carry an ID card, or have one’s DNA placed on a police database, when one has done nothing wrong, is) and at the same time feel sympathy for people who have had crimes perpetrated against them, which might have been solved more easily were one to submit to such infringements? Apparently not; or at least, you find it easier simply to impugn the motives of those you disagree with.

    "Perhaps you can explain how an officer on the beat would have unequivically stopped those heinous crimes you’ve ignored…"

    He couldn’t, necessarily, although clearly a greater police presence on the streets would function as a deterrent to crime. But DNA databases and compulsory ID cards can’t actually prevent a crime being committed: at best, they can make it easier to solve a crime, once it has been committed.

    "The ONLY reason this is being attacked as a viable option in crime detection is precisely because it’s under a left-wing government bla bla slide into totalitarianism etc etc zzzzz."

    Er, no. I would object to it just as much under a right-wing government, but it is not being proposed by a right-wing government, is it? Simply because right-wingers attack certain proposals of a left-wing government does not necessarily mean that we are trying to make it into a left-right issue.

    As for the police being stupid: since the main point of this post was that over one-eighth of the records on their vast database have been recorded under the wrong name, I’d say "stupid" is a fair description. Wouldn’t you? How else would you describe such a monumental cock-up?

    Finally, since you’re so keen on databases, and since you think that anyone who opposes you is devoid of sympathy for victims of crime, I’ll ask what you make of the case of Bernard Gilbert, a seventy-nine year old who died after a half-brick was hurled through his window, by two thugs. Very sad, eh? Now, they targeted him personally, because he had had an argument in a supermarket car park with the wife of one of them. And how did they find out where he lived? Well, a helpful policeman used the police national computer to get the information for them! Not a great advert for big police databases, is it?

  13. I also agree wholeheartedly with Ernest’s 9.57 comment.

  14. FR,

    "Still, we shouldn’t be too worried: on the basis of this showing, the Plods would struggle to organise a piss-up in a brewery, let alone a DDR-style police state…"

    Well the whole point of DNA is that belongs to a person, the person they arrested, and not a name. What would be of more concern is if you got arrested for littering or something, and your DNA got filed against a sex offender arrest or similar. It would not surprise me if they had data integrity issues of that sort also. If not then it is matter of time before someone figures out how to make it so.

  15. First off re the stupid police, an arrogant comment at best ignorant at worst

    "The judge called Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, who led the Levi Bellfield inquiry, back to the witness box to commend him for his work. As he stood, pink in the face, the Sheedy and Delagrange families burst into a round of applause"

    "Not in court," reproved Mrs Justice Rafferty, smiling

    In spite of the horrors of this Levi case and the relatively small amount of respect I have for our judicial system, it was good to read the police officers involved in this case receive some recognition. Some of the officers left the court in tears also. I know how it feels to not see justice or even a hint of it. I’m also aware that police officers can bust their balls to bring someone to trial only to see the CPS or a slew of human rights lawyers undermine everything they do. Or have the mistakes they make put ahead of the successes and every single move they make scrutinised as though they were worse than the criminals they pursue.

    This case must have been harrowing to investigate and it would take the patience of a saint to sit through the interrogation with that ‘man’ and not want to smash his arrogant face in.

    Re DNA, i agree whole heartedly with Aaranovich in the Times, smart thoughtful fella:-

    "The UK DNA database is already one of the largest in the world, mostly because, for the past few years, the police have been allowed to take and keep a swab from anyone arrested for a recordable offence.

    As it happens I don’t feel “watched” by CCTV, and I think it is a paranoid fantasy to imagine that we are “under surveillance” in the way that informers kept the Stasi up to date with the conversations of their subjects. I also believe it is perverse to shun biometrics that merely give real effect to ineffective measures we have long taken in this country, such as insisting on car numberplates and passport photos

    A very clever person said to me at the weekend that the ubiquity of CCTV meant that she felt “constantly watched”. This too is an IDP. It shouldn’t have surprised me then that last week a pitbull national radio interviewer failed to ask the most basic question of a woman who was arguing for the dismantling even of the DNA database that we currently possess.

    He could have asked her about the case of the Dearne Valley rapist, for example. Between 1983 and 1986 James Lloyd raped four women and attempted to rape two others in South Yorkshire. He was never caught, his victims never received any kind of justice, nor was society protected from him. Until, in 2006, a cold case review led to the attacker’s DNA being closely linked with 43 samples on the national DNA database. One of those was Lloyd’s sister, whose DNA had been taken when she was convicted of drink-driving in 2000.

    The use of DNA evidence in tracing and – last week – convicting both the Ipswich murderer Steve Wright and the necrophiliac Mark Dixie was further proof, as far as they were concerned, of the benefits of as large a database as possible. Wright was identified from DNA taken when he was charged with stealing £40, and Dixie was immediately identified when DNA was taken after he’d been involved in a pub brawl. Had there been a national universal database, said one policeman, Dixie would have been caught nine months earlier.

    (Dixie cried like a baby when he was made to give his DNA after the pub brawl knowing full well that the game was totally up)

    How do we measure my right not to feel discomfited by CCTV or DNA testing, against that of, say, Justine Kelly, who was 18 – one year older than my oldest daughter – when she was raped by Lloyd, and who said that seeing him sentenced “and facing a life sentence has helped me to finally feel at rest”.

    Exactly.

    As to innocence, well most of us are innocent. But Lloyd’s family never suspected him of rape, Wright’s wife was sure he couldn’t be a murderer, and Dixie’s friends had not an inkling of his capacity for extreme sexual violence. There has never yet been a would-be bomber whose family didn’t proclaim his normality.

    This was why, in September 2007, Sir Stephen Sedley, one of the judges at the original appeal, argued that the existing system was “indefensible” and called for an extension of the database to all British citizens and UK visitors. For which, of course, he was immediately set upon. But I think he was right; and no, I won’t eff off to East Germany"

    I think he is right too.

    Also in NO way does any of that detract from regular polce work or more beat officers, it enhances it. And of course ID cards will help.
    In short: youre wrong. I expect it is already here to stay, fan bloody tastic. Now lets get ID cards in too.

  16. Alison,

    We are not chattels of the State, to be labelled and catalogued for their convenience, and at their command.

    I note how you completely ignore the fact that those countries with an ID card history, are no better, and are possibly worse, policed than ourselves with no ID card. Also you ignored the known fact that criminals are already polluting crime scenes with false DNA leads, such as cigarette butts and other rubbish from innocent people, – didn’t you quote the use of acid to destroy DNA in rape cases?

    By all means take DNA samples from criminals, but don’t make it compuslsory for everyone…

  17. "Theirs"? And we are not ‘chattels’ to criminals either.

    We invented DNA and we should expect to make best and fullest use of it. It was still DNA that led to the acid rapists being caught. DNA testing in crime has been around for ages. We use DNA – we will discover yet more technology to outfox criminals. If you fear it so much then roll it all back and lets go back to stone age policing versus the kind of sick crimes carried out nowadays.. Im sure that will be a huge comfort to anyone on the receiving end.

    STILL not a single mention from any of you opposers and naysayers about those of us who actually value criminals being caught having the *right* to see them get caught using full technology available as has been proven a dozen or so times already.

    "How do we measure my right not to feel discomfited by CCTV or DNA testing, against that of, say, Justine Kelly, who was 18 – one year older than my oldest daughter – when she was raped by Lloyd, and who said that seeing him sentenced “and facing a life sentence has helped me to finally feel at rest”.

    And simply implementing any precautions to ensure the least bother to all of you who are so scared of it, should be the option we examine rather than insisting it is all bad and in the hands of the incompetent.

    You simply do not have an argument, not one that i have heard that justifies the total lunacy that comes with the fearmongering over this invaluable aid in crime detection.

  18. Alison,

    I am certainly not scared of the ‘new technology’, but I am scared of those , who you admire so much, but who have been proven to be wrong so many times that little confidence remains in them to do their duty in a fair and equitable fashion.

    A couple of swallows don’t make a summer, and neither do a couple of happenstance arrests make a watertight case for universal DNA sampling.

    Database the criminals by all means, they deserve to lose the privileges of a free society, but don’t assume that gives the government or the police the right to make everyone donate a sample.

  19. Alison:

    Thank you for cutting and pasting an article by Aaronovitch: it’s always nice to see someone thinking for themselves.

    "STILL not a single mention from any of you opposers and naysayers about those of us who actually value criminals being caught having the *right* to see them get caught using full technology available as has been proven a dozen or so times already."

    You know, your repeated assertions that Ernest and I, or anyone else who opposes compulsory databases and ID cards, do not "value criminals being caught" is simply idiotic. Of course we don’t want criminals to go free, but we also feel that catching criminals is not the be all and end all of public policy, and that, in some circumstances, other factors may outweigh catching criminals in the scale of importance.

    "You simply do not have an argument, not one that i have heard that justifies the total lunacy that comes with the fearmongering over this invaluable aid in crime detection."

    Perhaps you could explain why none of these points concern you:

    1. The police cannot be trusted to manage such a database competently. See the subject matter of this post for a demonstration why.

    2. The government as a whole cannot be trusted to manage such databases competently. Just think how much personal data they lost last year alone.

    3. Not all policemen can be trusted to use information gathered in their databases honestly. See the case of Bernard Gilbert.

    4. In any event, it is unacceptable for the law-abiding citizens of any free country to be compelled to carry ID cards or submit to DNA testing.

    5. ID cards in particular would make the job of any future government that did want to further curtail civil liberties considerably easier.

    I also note that you have not, as yet, addressed the subject matter of the post. I ask, and hope you will answer, whether or not this fills you with confidence in the competence of the police? And, despite yout frequent protestations of your support for crime victims, you’ve also omitted to comment on the killing of Bernard Gilbert: perhaps victims of crime are only important to you when they can be used to bolster some statist agenda?