The DNA issue

Thought it was about time I put my views on the record about the weekend media coverage of DNA testing and the Joanna Yeates’ murder case….

Just to get one thing straight first of all…. The media coverage was not initiated by me. I don’t press release things to the national media, and I don’t try to get coverage anywhere outside my local area. I’ve always found it very unedifiying when MPs in areas hit by tragedy attempt to make political capital out of it, and gain publicity for themselves, e.g. by making very public visits to the bereaved parents, or making kneejerk calls for this, that or the other. There have been a number of young men tragically killed in gang fights/ stabbings in my constituency over recent years, and whatever help I have been able to give, has been behind the scenes. Indeed, my concern at being seen to be ‘bandwagon-jumping’ has probably stopped me from raising the issue in parliament as much as I should have done. And so, apart from re-tweeting requests from Bristol friends of Joanna Yeates when she was still missing, I had not commented on the Joanna Yeates murder at all.

On Saturday, however, when I was up in Oldham campaigning in the by-election I received a call from a Sunday newspaper, asking my views on calls from the parents of Louise Smith, who was murdered in Yate in 1995, for men in Bristol to be DNA-tested in the hunt for Joanna Yeates’ killer.

I – perhaps wrongly – interpreted this as asking whether I would have any objections to such DNA testing by police in the murder investigation, and my answer was along the lines that DNA evidence has proved very useful in a number of cases, that we want to catch the killer and that I would support it. I added that as well as the desire of everyone to see the killer brought to justice, there was also real fear in Bristol that the killer might strike again. So DNA testing could be worthwhile, and yes, I agreed with Louise Smith’s parents that it ought to be an option.

This was reported by the newspaper on Sunday as me “leading calls for the DNA testing of all men in Bristol” and was copied by other news outlets, none of whom made any attempt to contact me. I contacted the Mail myself after seeing their website report saying I was calling for swabs to be taken from250,000 men, and got an amendment in the print version (as far as I know, I haven’t checked). I also messaged the Bristol Evening Post asking them to speak to me before repeating the national news stories, but they didn’t. I did one TV interview for Sky and the Nolan show on Radio 5 Live, but turned down requests from BBC Breakfast and ITV Daybreak the next day, and just did local radio in the morning.

So let me clarify my stance. Obviously the question of whether mass DNA testing should be carried out in Bristol is an operational matter for the police. I have no idea whether they even have managed to recover DNA evidence from Joanna’s body. If they haven’t, it would be a pretty pointless exercise!

If such an operation was carried out in Bristol, it would be up to the police to decide on what basis it should be conducted. It would be very expensive, and possibly a logistical nightmare. I assume – I don’t know – that a fair degree of profiling would be used in asking men to come forward. In the Louise Smith murder case 4,500 local young men were asked to provide DNA samples; I don’t know why young men were singled out, it may have been because of other supporting evidence. So talk by the press of 250,000 men in Bristol being tested is pretty silly (especially when the population of the city, as at 2009, was only 433,100!) There’s obviously no point asking a 95 year old who’s been confined to a nursing home for the past 10 years to participate. Children, the elderly, the infirm, the incapable, would, I assume be excluded and there could be a degree of geographical targeting too. I’m not sure there would be much point in confining it to the Clifton area though. Most of the students who live in the area would not have been in Bristol over Christmas, and it’s an area to which many people from other parts of the city travel. And would it be worth doing if a significant proportion of people refused, and wouldn’t it mean the suspect would simply leave town to avoid being tested? (See the Louise Smith case on that point, where the killer did just that). Yes, there are all sorts of complex issues to consider, but all those are operational issues for the police. I repeat: it’s up to them whether they think DNA testing is a good idea, but they’d have my support if they did.

I think the outraged accusations of sexism from some quarters, i.e. why was I only asking for men to be tested, are to be frank, a little silly. I was only asked about men, so responded on that basis. Presumably the police would know what gender DNA they’d retrieved. And I don’t think the assumption that the killer is likely to be a man is sexist; I think it’s common sense. Fine line perhaps between common sense and prejudice, but I don’t think most people would object to the assumption that it’s a man the police are looking for.

The other really important factor, of course, is that such testing could only be conducted on a voluntary basis. There is absolutely no question of people being forced to take the tests. It’s not legal, unless someone is under arrest. And as I’ve said in interviews, it would be wrong if a refusal to participate was seen as a sign of guilt. Some people feel very strongly about such issues, on principle, and would view being asked for a DNA sample as an unacceptable invasion of privacy, even if an undertaking was given that the sample would be destroyed as soon as the investigation was concluded.

I don’t quite see this myself. I understand that people feel strongly; I don’t quite understand why. I’d be more than happy to participate if I thought it would help catch the killer. In fact I’d be perfectly happy to contribute to a voluntary DNA database and have the sample retained indefinitely. I supported Labour’s plans in Government on this issue.

It takes us into the realm of what matters most, individual liberties or the public good. To my mind, the freedom not to give a DNA sample is nowhere near as important as the freedom to be able to walk the streets without being raped or murdered, and if having a comprehensive DNA database helps take even a few rapists and murderers off the streets, it’s a price worth paying. I know that many people would strongly disagree with this. If you look at the Ipswich murders, within an hour of the police retrieving a DNA sample from the body of one of the murdered sex-workers, Stephen Wright was tracked down as the suspect. His DNA was already on the police computer because of a theft conviction in 2003. With the Sally Bowman murder, the killer was arrested for violent disorder some months later, and the taking of DNA from him on arrest enabled police to identify him as a suspect. Incidentally, DNA evidence also allowed police to clear her boyfriend of suspicion; it’s not just useful in proving guilt, it can help the innocent too.

In both these cases, luck played a part. There are no doubt numerous cases where the police were not so lucky, and couldn’t find a DNA match on their computers. Which is why I was keen on a voluntary national DNA database, and to be honest, wouldn’t have objected to this at some point becoming compulsory. Some will see this as hideously authoritarian… I don’t. Like I’ve said, I’m far more concerned about people being raped and murdered than I am about a sample of DNA being potentially misused, which I think is a bit far-fetched, though possible.

The current position re DNA retention by the way, is that samples from people arrested but not charged or convicted of an offence can only be retained by the police for 6 years. This was after an ECHR ruling that they couldn’t be kept indefinitely. And there are, I appreciate, other concerns about the database, for example the disproportionate number of young black men on there.

I think that just about covers the issues… I have replied to most, but not all of the 20 or so emails I’ve received on the subject. I have no time at all for rabid right-wing libertarians, who have no concept of the common good and are incapable of expresssing themselves without being grossly offensive, so they go straight into the trash can.  (Unless they’re a constituent of course. But my constituents are much nicer than that). Ditto comments on this blog post!

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Comments

  • The Rev'd Dougie Burnett  On January 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    A common sense argument from Kerry. Sadly the press can often be relied on to exaggerate and distort much of what is said, especially when not much else is happening that might provide a story. While the matters of individual liberties etc impinge on this matter there is also the ethic of wishing justice to be done and the well-being and peace of mind of the local community. I have a daughter who works in Clifton village and she would underline the sense of unease in the community. Within the Clifton area there will be more who would wish to support the DNA option than resist it.

  • Alex B  On January 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I imagine that I probably qualify as a “rabid libertarian” to you, but not an especially right-wing one.

    To my mind, guarding against misuse of gathered DNA material is exactly /as/ important as guarding against rapes and murder; both can result in the taking away of a person’s life as they wish to live it.

    I don’t, however, have a problem with retention of DNA for people who have been /convicted/ (not merely accused, interviewed, or charged). If their conviction is later overturned, their DNA sample should be destroyed too. Concomitantly, it may be helpful to work towards introducing a “not proven” verdict in English law too. Unsurprisingly, I welcome the ECHR verdict.

    Regarding the issue of a disproportionate number of samples retained from young black men, it felt as though the previous government’s solution was… to gather samples from everyone else! Surely it’s far better to address the root causes, be they racial profiling, outright racism within the Police or higher levels of criminal behaviour amongst people from certain backgrounds (e.g. poorer, less educated, inner-city, or unstable families) which themselves in turn, are ethnically disproportionate compared with the population of Britain generally or the local region.

    • Steven  On January 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm

      Completely agree with you Alex, valid point

  • JM  On January 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    thanks for clarifying that – i saw the report and it didn’t sound like you at all. i do wish the press would realise that these are real crimes, not stories, and take longer to solve because, unlike your average detective novel, there’s no convenient group of half a dozen suspects provided for the detective to whittle down.

  • Karen  On January 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    “I think the outraged accusations of sexism from some quarters, i.e. why was I only asking for men to be tested, are to be frank, a little silly. I was only asked about men, so responded on that basis.”

    So, similarly, if a journalist ‘only asked about black people’ being DNA tested and you ‘responded on that basis’ and said ‘yes’ that wouldn’t be racism? Of course it would. So, too with sexism.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 12, 2011 at 11:50 am

      If the evidence pointed to it being a black suspect – e.g. CCTV evidence – no, it wouldn’t be racist.

      • Karen  On January 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm

        On that basis, Kerry, are you saying that along with other types of profiling, you agree with racial profiling?

        For instance, the kind of thing that we saw immediately after 9/11 when certain ethnic and religious groups were singled out for more vigorous airport security checks than others?

        Personally, I’d be uncomfortable with that and – although understanding the important need for tighter security during times of increased terrorist or criminal threat – would prefer that everyone was treated equally.

        I feel that targeting innocent people by profiling not only divides people, but makes it more likely that actual criminals and terrorists will deliberately change the profile the authorities expect them to match in order to evade detection and capture.

        Ultimately, profiling based on race, sex, religion or class is based on prejudice after all – so it’s hardly any surprise that statistics show such an irrational approach to detection has, so far, had a very low success rate.

      • kerrymccarthy  On January 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm

        I’m not talking about profiling… I’m saying that if the CCTV camera clearly showed a black guy leaving the scene, that would be who the police were looking for. On a broader level, it’s tricky… is it worth airport security randomly carrying out vigorous checks on, say, 65 year old grandmothers, just so that they aren’t accused of profiling? I think there’s a balance to be struck between common sense and prejudice, but stats showing, for example, arrests of young black men or even police pulling over young black men driving – and I’ve dealt with a number of direct complaints from black/ Asian constituents about what they regard as police harrassment – show that this balance isn’t easily struck.

      • Karen  On January 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm

        I agree that it wouldn’t be racist or sexist to narrow investigations by singling out a certain group on the grounds of specific evidence in the example you’ve given Kerry, but what evidence do we actually have yet to suggest that the person who killed Joanna is more likely to be male than female?

        Also, if airport security becomes well-known to be particularly lax on searching, for instance, 65-year-old grandmothers what’s stopping a terrorists or drug smugglers taking advantage of this by strapping explosives to their gran or hiding drugs in their gran’s luggage? One feature that marks out extremists or people devoid of moral scruples – as opposed hopefully from most other people – is often their belief that the means, however unsavoury, justify the end.

  • Steven Smith  On January 12, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Excellent point Karen. Kerry is well know for her sexism against men and this is further proof. It is wrong to make assumptions and wrong to be so sexist.

    I would never ever give a DNA sample anyway until the coalition have reformed Labour’s disgusting big brother DNA database and removed every single last innocent person from it.

    Kerry has no respect for justice or the innocent – she even opposed equality and protection for those who have their lives ruined by false rape accusations.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 12, 2011 at 11:52 am

      Even the Government has now accepted there should be no anonymity for rape defendants, that they should be treated the same as defendants in other cases.

      • Paul  On January 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm

        Right so it makes sense then that the accuser can hide behind the cloak of anonymity for rape, the only crime where this is allowed, but the accused can have his life ruined by a malicious women? Do you think this is fair? Perhaps you also believe it’s fair to wrongly convict 10 innocent men rather than let one guilty one free?

        The rape laws are outrageously sexist and unfair and put a man in a position where his life can ruined regardless of whether he is guilty or not – just being in the wrong place at the wrong time will do it. Steven Smith is absolutely right. you have no respect for men (perhaps you despise them?) or justice and only believe in equality of the kind where women are more equal.

      • kerrymccarthy  On January 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm

        I’ve blogged about the anonymity/ rape issue many times before, in the early days of this Government. And frankly it’s a bit silly to say I must despise men just because I’m concerned about women (and men) being raped. It suggests you don’t have confidence in the strength of your arguments and have to resort to getting personal.

      • Paul  On January 25, 2011 at 8:05 am

        But why aren’t you concerned if a man’s life is ruined by a false accusation? You clearly think it is acceptable for this to happen even if he is innocent. How can one interpret it as anything else? Would you find it acceptable if a women was treated in this way?

      • kerrymccarthy  On January 26, 2011 at 11:47 am

        I don’t – see earlier posts.

      • Paul  On January 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm

        I have read your earlier posts and I don’t see in any of them concern for the effect false accusations have. From my reading it seems you don’t really regard them as victims of a vicious horrible crime. Rather as collateral damage? There seems to be trait amongst the feminist left to believe men accused of rape must be guilty because, well, women never lie. Right.

        Incidentally your rant about the under reporting of rape … really you should think very carefully about the logic behind your assertions.

  • Richard  On January 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    “…if having a comprehensive DNA database helps take even a few rapists and murderers off the streets, it’s a price worth paying.”

    It’s disappointing to see such misconceived and emotional speculation from an MP when there is evidence to suggest a comprehensive DNA database would be neither effective nor proportionate in catching criminals. It is, however, unsurprising. Lest we forget, the English NDNAD was built after neither parliamentary nor public debate, relying on secondary legislation in an attempt to construct a comprehensive database by stealth.

    Based on Home Office data, GeneWatch estimates that as few as one third of one percent of crimes are solved, or partially solved, by matching a crime-scene sample to a profile on the National DNA Database. They say there is no reliable data on what proportion of those useful profiles belong to someone never convicted of a crime but in my mind it must be less than the whole 0.3%.

    The rules in Scotland are both proportionate and ECHR-compliant. DNA is only retained on innocent Scots if they have been arrested for violent or sexual offences, and then their profiles are kept only for three years, although the police can apply to a sheriff to extend this to five years in individual cases. The Council of Europe says it is yet to be satisfied the new retention rules in England (6 years regardless of the seriousness of the allegations) comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

    I don’t understand why an English politician is advocating a different – potentially illegal – system without offering evidence that it is either necessary or effective. In my opinion we should adopt the Scottish arrangements in England immediately.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Obviously in the majority of crimes DNA evidence is not relevant, but in some of the most serious crimes, it is. Does the figure of one third of one percent relate to crimes where DNA samples are taken from the crime scene, or to all crimes?

      • Richard  On January 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm

        If DNA evidence is most often relevant to the most serious crimes will retaining profiles from petty crooks have much of an impact on the detection and conviction rates for those crimes? What about from innocent people?

        The GeneWatch figure relates to all crimes and I think it comes from this Home Affairs Committee report:

        http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmhaff/222/22203.htm

        No further light is shed on the number of crimes solved by matching a crime-scene profile with the stored profile of an innocent person. I maintain this must be a smaller figure than the total number of crimes solved with the help of DNA techniques.

        Given this fact, I’m still wondering about the evidence on which you base your support for the police retaining innocent people’s DNA, given that the scheme you advocate (a) differs from that in force in Scotland; and (b) potentially contravenes the ECHR.

        By the way, I am not affiliated with GeneWatch, which I realise might not have been clear from my first comment.

      • kerrymccarthy  On January 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        So if it relates to all crimes, it’s not really very relevant, is it?

        Stephen Wright, who murdered sex workers in Ipswich, was caught because his DNA was retained after a conviction for theft. I don’t suppose DNA was a factor in his theft conviction, but if his sample hadn’t been retained, how much longer would it have taken police to track him down? How many more women would have been killed?

      • Richard  On January 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm

        The relevant point is that there is no evidence on how many crimes have been solved as a result of innocent people’s DNA being held on file. The fact that it cannot be above 0.3% is secondary.

        I might add that as the NDNAD grows, the chances of a false-positive match increase according to the baseline fallacy, which is why the Deputy Information Commissioner said of a different case that when you’re looking for a needle in a haystack it’s not helpful to add more hay (he was speaking about Contactpoint – I believe the analogy holds).

        There’s a saying that the plural of anecdote is not data – but you’ve only provided us with one anecdote. Is that the entire basis for your support of this policy? Or is it a second example of trying to carry an argument with emotional language rather than evidence?

  • kerrymccarthy  On January 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Sorry richard, you’ve not convinced me. And yes, there are plenty of other examples, which are in the public domain and have been cited in parliamentary debates in the past – but you’ll have to do your own homework on that as I have lots else to do!

  • Jonathan Morse  On January 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Presumably women, who generally don’t commit crimes, or only survival crimes, but suffer from them, both directly and when a loved one is hurt, could all voluntarily submit their DNA to the NDNAD? Then any offender could be caught even if they haven’t been caught before as they’re bound to be related to one of the women, if all of the UK’s women participate.

    If I had faith in the English legal system to only acquit the innocent then I might go along with only keeping the guilty’s DNA. I don’t, but then newspapers have an interest to misrepresent the law so maybe I believe them too much. Or not. I do believe that the burden of proof for conviction is greater than merely being guilty. So I suspect that there are many people out there who have committed crimes but are not guilty because they were either acquitted or the CPS didn’t bother to charge them.

    I like the current system. If you’re going to limit those people who’s DNA is taken why keep that of those who merely commit theft, except that it meant we found the Ipswich killer? Where’s the proportionality of keeping the DNA of thieves?

    It does however only mean you can catch those who have committed crimes, only make it more likely that those thinking of committing crimes will fear getting caught. Won’t have any effect on those who don’t think before they commit a crime, those on drugs, those needing a fix, anyone who doesn’t think nor those who have yet to be caught whose DNA either isn’t on the system or not yet linked to a name.

    On profiling, supposedly shop staff are taught that thieves look at the security precautions whereas shoppers, even if they don’t buy anything, look at the goods. Supposedly the Israeli’s have developed a system of profiling based on what people do, that potential terrorists behave differently even if they don’t look different, and they claim it is effective.

    On the issue of anonymity for rape suspects, we’ve had a number of cases where the press haven’t reported anything until all the cases have been completed. Surely if it’s o.k. even desirable for these cases to be unpublicised it can be true for rape cases too? I believe all cases, not just sex crimes, should be publicity free until there’s a verdict.

  • Steven Smith  On January 13, 2011 at 7:23 am

    “Even the Government has now accepted there should be no anonymity for rape defendants”
    No, the coalition have done a cowardly U-turn and backed down under immense hysterical pressure from the misandrist feminist lobby.

    Protection for false rape vicitms was a policy democratically agreed at the Lib Dem conference, I don’t’ believe they’ve voted on it again therefore the position of Lib Dem party as a whole hasn’t actually changed anyway (they’ve just been stabbed in the back by their leaders).

    I do have some hope as there is a wider proposal from some for anonymity for vicitms of more crimes (for example false domestic violence/abuse allegations are almost as problematic as false rape allegations and certainty far more widespread so it would be good to have anonymity for any crime where it’s simply one person’s word against another.

    Therefore plenty of politicians still clearly fell that false rape victims desperately do need protection, but such protection shouldn’t just be limited to that specific area and should be spread across several areas.

    Anyway thanks for at least publishing my post and replying. That’s the most I’ve ever had from any Labour MP. I would also like to echo the concern about your “price worth paying”
    comments. That attitude to me sums up so much that’s wrong about the Labour Party. No concern for principles, or justice, just total control freakery.

    If someone is on the DNA database they are more likely to be convicted of a crime. This means any innocent person who is falsely arrested (say on the false rape charges), not only has their life ruined, but they’re more likely to be wrongly convicted for a future offence too just by being on the database. You’re abusing them all over again. No one should ever be put at a disadvantage by being wrongly arrested.

    Also, by storing innocent people’s DNA you’re saying they’re not really innocent at all. It fits in very nicely with your stance on refusing to protect false rape vicitms I suppose.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Where’s your evidence that someone on the DNA database is more likely to be wrongly convicted of a crime in future?

      • Steven Smith  On January 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm

        Ummm because they’re on the database?

        Didn’t think I’d have to explain this one and I’m surprised you don’t get the point, it really is extremely important. Anyone on the database it at more risk of conviction (legitimate or false) just by being on there and having dna from crime scenes compared against theirs. This is morally wrong in the case of anyone who was innocent as you’ve put them at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the population. You’re punishing them for being the victim of a false allegation/arrest when we really should be compensating, helping and protecting them.

        In a fair and just society every law abiding citizen should have the same rights and same chance of conviction. We really do need to take every single innocent person off the database.

        On a related issue, given your earlier Twitter problems don’t’ the police already have your DNA or did they not take a sample? I’m not at all against the DNA database and would support them taking a sample from every single person cautioned for any offence.

      • kerrymccarthy  On January 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm

        I didn’t ask for an explanation I asked for evidence, ie stats. And no, they don’t – but I’d have no problem with it, as I’ve said plenty of times.

  • Steven Smith  On January 13, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Well you asked for evidence and the key evidence is that they’re on the database. The purpose of the database is to check dna samples. If someone isn’t on it then they wont’ be arrested if their dna is innocently left at a crime scene and similarly they won’t be vicitms of false DNA matches as they would never ever have given a DNA sample in the first place.

    It doesn’t matter what the stats are or the scale of the problem – it could be one wrongful conviction or it could be 1,000. It’s the principle that counts.

    Even legitimate convictions obtained this way are morally questionable as in many cases you’re only catching the criminal as a result of earlier wrongdoing by the police or by a false accuser.

    We really need to fully re-establish the concept of innocent until proven guilty rather than constantly seeking convictions at any cost. Also, until we restore trust in the DNA database and remove all the innocent people you get many people like me who would refuse to give a sample in any investigation due to the lack of trust and out of principle. Therefore holding innocent people’s DNA is potentially harming other investigations.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      No, the evidence would be if convictions were overturned, because the person was proved innocent. You’ve not cited a single case of someone being wrongly convicted because of DNA evidence held on the database from an earlier arrest. And let me quote you back at you: “It doesn’t matter what the stats are or the scale of the problem – it could be one wrongful conviction or it could be 1,000. It’s the principle that counts.” Substitute rape/ murder for ‘conviction’ and there’s my argument in a nutshell.

  • Jonathan Morse  On January 14, 2011 at 4:10 am

    If you’re accused of an offence because of wrong DNA you can always submit a correct sample. The issue is should you be arrested for an offence you’ve committed because the police have your DNA when they shouldn’t. And by shouldn’t as in whether they shouldn’t be allowed to keep your DNA or if they get it illegally.

    There is a TV programme called NCIS set in America where they routinely offer someone a drink then take their DNA/fingerprints off the bottle after they’ve gone. Now this is fiction, the enemy is the viewer who switches channels before the ad break, maybe they can’t take DNA in this way in the US and I would say they shouldn’t be able to take it this way in the UK. I do believe in the status quo.

    You seem to be saying, Steven, that it’s not sufficient to commit an offence to go to prison. Rather that the police charging you, stopping you going about your business just because you’ve offended against someone, is not on and that they must go through more hoops to get you. If there’s enough hoops you can stay out of jail, and it’s only dumb criminals who get caught unless the cops cheat.

  • Dual Citizen  On January 14, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Well I’m glad that you regret the comments that were published, though that’s a very long winded and meandering post and I’m getting the feeling that you’re actually regretting the backlash.

    So where do you stand on a national universal DNA database? For or against? After all, this issue is going to get raised after every terrible crime such as this, and best that you don’t get caught off guard again.

    For the record – I’m completely against a universal database, and I generally support the Scottish model. My view is –

    1) DNA should be retained for life for all convicted criminals, including “petty criminals”; they’ve committed a crime and it’s a sacrifice they have to make. Plus, many many petty criminals go on to commit violent crimes (eg. Stephen Wright).

    2) It should also be retained for life for (a) everyone on the Sex Offenders’ Register, and (b) anyone deported back to Britain having committed a violent or sexual crime overseas (furthermore those deported to the UK for a sex offence should always be placed on the SOR). This would have meant that Mark Dixie (Sally Anne Bowman’s killer) would have had his DNA on record as he was deported from Australia for committing a sex offence and would have been caught sooner.

    3) For those charged but not convicted, or those cautioned, it should remain on file for 3 years, and for those arrested but not charged for a maximum of one year.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      I thought I’d make it quite clear, I wouldn’t be against a universal database, but that’s not on the table at the moment, given ECHR rulings. As for “backlash” – yes, some people who are violently opposed to DNA testing have objected but I think at least one Sunday newspaper is planning to run a poll tomorrow showing widespread public support. It’s not always those who shout the loudest (or blog the most?) who represent the majority opinion.

  • Steven Smith  On January 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    “You seem to be saying, Steven, that it’s not sufficient to commit an offence to go to prison”

    I’m not saying anything remotely like that.

    What I’m saying is that the present system means that those groups more likely to suffer false allegations and false arrest are punished for suffering such injustice.

    I think people are missing the most important issue here anyway. Storing an innocent person’s who was falsely accused of a crime is sick.

    They’re doing their best to clear their name (practically impossible if it’s a false rape accusation). And you’ve got the police saying “well we need to keep hold of your DNA”. Why would they want the DNA? Clearly because they think the person is a threat and therefore probably just got away with it this time.

    You’re taking an innocent person and putting them on a database full of rapists, murderers etc (and even expense fiddling Labour MPs). It’s a quite awful smear and needs to stop.

    Given Kerry’s (and a number of other people’s) attack on victims of false rape it would be nice to think she had alternative plans for helping innocent victims of these reverse rapes (and other false allegations) clear their name and rebuild their lives. Anonymity is just one part of the solution but there are plenty of other things needed too.

    Taking innocent people off the DNA database would be an excellent first step, though she’s against fairness and justice in this area too.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      Steven, I’m getting more than a little fed up with the tone of your comments, and your inability to substantiate the points you’re making. And I think the use of phrases such as “victims of false rape” and “reverse rapes” is quite offensive.

  • Steven Smith  On January 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Yes “victims of false rape” doesn’t’ make a great deal of sense, I meant false rape accusations.

    “Reverse rape” is actually an extremely useful phrase and its use would be a useful addition to our justice system. It can be used to summarise a malicious false rape accusation, whereby the victim suffers similarly to a genuine rape, with the accuser using the state, media, police, society, prison service etc to rape the victim.
    So many people seem to forget that a rape doesn’t’ have to be a sexual crime, for example it can be defined as “an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation”:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rape

    It’s extremely important to differentiate between simple the false rape accusation (perhaps mistaken identity) and downright malicious ones. The present language used implies all cases are of equal severity (unfairly stigmatising women making accidental accusations and correspondingly allowing malicious accusers to escape sufficient condemnation).

  • Steven Smith  On January 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Slight faux pas in the above post. We should bear in mind that men too have been making false rape accusations too. Apologies for the lack of gender neutral language.

  • JM  On January 25, 2011 at 10:36 am

    ALL defendants in ALL trials should be anonymous until/unless found guilty, unless there is a public interest (not the same thing as public curiosity!)e.g. someone has skipped bail, or has not been caught and may be dangerous.

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