Why was November 2012 another disappointment for those UK innocents waiting to have their DNA profiles erased from NDNAD, the UK’s national DNA data base?
It is because the Home Office broke another promise of commencement orders and new ACPO retention guidelines in November.
Readers of this blog and followers of @lasancmt on Twitter will have noticed my more than usual interest in the subject of Privacy and NDNAD. That is because I am one of the million innocent UK citizens that object being on there. Unlike Tory MP Damian Green I don’t have the political cloud to have myself removed. I ended up on NDNAD because I had the audacity to ask the husband of a police employee to exchange pet insurance details after his dog bit mine in an Ipswich park causing a huge veterinary bill. A Dutchman, innocently asking a Scotsman where his famous ‘English’ manners were, provided Suffolk Constabulary their eagerly awaited and double points scoring arrest for aggravated racial harassment. Fortunately the rest of the British justice system didn’t see it that way and dropped the case pretty swiftly. The problem is Ipswich Police still have my DNA in a test tube and I want it scrapped along with my record of arrest. The Independent Police Complaints Commission agreed with me Ipswich Police prosecuted the wrong guy and the arresting officer was cautioned. Exceptional enough for Chief Constable Ash to use his discretion under the current deletion guidelines you might think? My god, this man doesn’t like to be told what to do. Thank god he is leaving his post soon, with the new Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore taking up my cause and breathing down his neck!
In proportion to the UK population size NDNAD is the largest of such databases in the world and holds the records of at least a million innocent UK citizens like me.
This of course can have serious practical privacy implications, apart from the feeling of injustice and stigmatization felt when one’s DNA profile is being stored alongside that of burglars, rapists, murderers and terrorists. And then this data base is shared with all other EU states and the FBI! What must my local gendarme think of me?
ZeroNation is just one web site that warns people why they should be concerned about an unjustified police record:
“Police records can be used to refuse someone a visa or a job simply because they have a record of arrest and can lead to stigma and discrimination when accessed by officers on the beat.
Information about arrests can be released as part of a criminal record check, even if there has been no charge, caution or conviction.
The US embassy now states that anyone who has been arrested must apply for a full visa, rather than using the visa waiver scheme. Visa applicants must then pay the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Criminal Records Office (ACRO) to release their record to the US embassy as part of the expensive and time consuming application process. This has major implications for a large proportion of the population who may no longer be able to travel freely simply because they have been arrested.
Business travelers could lose business, or even their job or a promotion, because applying for a visa can take several months and a visa can be refused simply because someone has a record of arrest.”
I used the word unjustified, because the UK Home Office, egged-on and misled by the Association of Chief police Officers (ACPO) has only ever fed parliament with bogus and unfinished scientific data, trying to justify all this DNA hoarding. One of the propaganda tricks ACPO spokesman Chris Sims pulled on a parliament committee is confusing thousands of extra database ‘hits’ with securing extra convictions in court. Lord Henley put the exgaggerated figures in context when he said: “Since 2001, more than 4 million people have been added to the DNA database, yet despite that the number of DNA detections has fallen from 33,000 to just over 26,000 in 2009-10. There has been a vast growth in the hoarding of people’s DNA but a decline in the number of convictions. That is an important thing to remember!” Let’s face it; every confused copper scratching his head at a crime scene would be good for another database hit like that. So now the UK Policing Improvement Authority has started to claim how many innocents they exonerate with NDNAD each year!
Anyway, as reported in this blog before, the landmark Marper and S. ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the 4th of December 2008 should have started a huge database cleansing exercise by UK police forces, ridding NDNAD of illegal junk DNA of innocents. We thought this had to start three months after the ECHR verdict. Instead the UK Labour government of the time started a lengthy consultation process, which allowed the UK Police forces to continue violating innocents’ Human Rights.
Then we had the UK Supreme Court Ruling of May 18, 2011, basically underwriting what the ECtHR had already said. However not wishing to step on the toes of UK Parliament discussing the new ‘Freedoms bill’, the Supreme Court did not order the Police to take immediate remedial action. That would flow from implementing the relevant passages in the new ‘Protections of Freedoms Act drafted by the new coalition government, which finally received Royal Assent on May 1st this year.
You would think that once the Freedoms bill became an Act of Parliament the police, who had been anticipating the coming of it for three years, would be quick to start erasing. You would be wrong! The relevant passages need individual commencement orders issued by the Home Office and of course the police are lobbying and dragging their feet again. In fact a Big Brother watch report highlighted that in my county Suffolk Constabulary collected 17,465 samples since the new ruling and has deleted only 4! First commencement orders for mass erasure were rumoured for July, then pressure groups like Genewatch, Liberty and Big Brother Watch were told by the Home Office November would be the month, where announcements would be made how the police finally were going to comply. Good thing I wasn’t holding my breath!
Baroness Hamwee already seems to have smelled something fishy going on when she tabled a question on October 22 in the House of lords, asking Her Majesty’s Government why provisions in Part I of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 relating to the retention of DNA samples and fingerprints are unlikely to be commenced before mid-2013. That would make it five years for the UK government to comply to the European Court of Human Rights!
How is this possible you might wonder? When it comes to extraditing a troublesome cleric and suspected terrorist like Abu Qatada to Jordan, the UK Government grumbling complies with the Human Right Court order, but when it comes to Marper and S. they seemingly keep defying Strasbourg ad infinitum.
PS. Since writing this post I have received official confirmation from Assistand Chief Constable Hall in Suffolk who said:” I have reviewed the circumstances of your particular case……I have now given my authority for destruction of he samples and profiles held and in your case ahead of commencement date of this section of the PoFA.” Well thank God for small mercies!
This leaves of course open, what will happen to my record of arrest on the National PNC Data base? The now illegal ACPO ‘exceptional’ procedure at least ensured deletion of those records at the same time. The PoFA doesn’t and is on that point a step backwards. So what to do about them? Certainly the Information Commissioner in the UK is of the opinion, that minor records of arrest should not be stored by the police indefinitely, but the Police appealed and won that one. While researching this blog entry I came across another recent European Court of Human Rights privacy conviction against a UK Police force known as the CASE OF M.M. v. THE UNITED KINGDOM. This one is pertinent to records of arrest where a minor caution was issued and accepted. I wonder if we are to face this whole saga all over again. I asked fellow members of my LinkeIn privacy group for comments and I hope to write about this in a future post.
Links in this article:
Tory MP Damian Green has DNA profile deleted from database: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6056725/Tory-MP-Damian-Green-has-DNA-profile-deleted-from-database.html
The Marper and S. ruling: http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2008/1581.html
The UK Supreme Court ruling: http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/docs/UKSC_2010_0173_ps.pdf
The relevant DNA retention passage of the Protections of Freedoms Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/9/section/1
The June 2012 Big Brother Watch DNA report: http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/files/DNA_REPORT_June2012.pdf
An interesting recent new ECHR landmark ruling: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-114517