Human Rights is one of those legal-political subjects which is difficult to debate because there are so many strands to it.
Some of those strands are hot topics in their own right. Furthermore, the principles which underpin those rights are not entirely uniform. There is no single principle which applies to the justification for each human right, apart from the fact that the rights are for human beings.
When it comes to deciding whether or not it is acceptable for the Government to maintain a database which can be accessed only for the Police in the pursuit of crime, which principle ought to be followed?
A few months ago, the Government lost the case of Re M and S in the European Court of Human Rights. In a landmark decision, the ECHR ruled that the Police practice of retaining DNA samples of suspects after they have either not been charged or found to have been innocent of any crime was unlawful. This was a violation of Article 8 of the convention which safeguards an individual’s right to privacy.
In an article today on Conservative Home, the emphasis is on criticism of the Government for not destroying the million or so DNA profiles which have not yet been destroyed four months after the ECHR judgment. I will come back to what I believe should be the Conservative position on this topic.
Faced with the ruling, the Police are obliged to destroy all the samples of those either not convicted or not charged. Statistically, this is bound lead to a significant reduction in the rate of crime detection. According to a report in the Guardian on 4 December 2008, Chris Sims, the chief constable of Staffordshire police said,
“Analysis of 200,000 DNA samples retained on the database between 2001 and 2005, which would have to be destroyed under today’s ruling, showed that 8,500 profiles had been linked to crime scenes, among them 114 murders and 116 rapes”
The Government has no choice but to destroy the samples of those found to be innocent. The Libertarians have had their way for now but should we really be content to let go such a potent weapon for crime detection?
DNA technology has now moved to the point where a criminal can be tracked down through the DNA database because a close relative of the criminal has provided a sample. This happened in the case of the serial M5 shoe rapist who was tracked down and later convicted for his crimes after his sister gave a DNA sample in relation to a drink driving offence.
In my view, it would be irresponsible for a future Conservative Government not to consider other ways to build up the DNA database on a voluntary basis. I would be extremely surprised if such a measure was unpopular. Most citizens, when faced with a choice between eliminating negligible inconvenience not catching substantial numbers of criminals are much more likely to favour it.
Filed under: Conservative Party, Conservative Party Policy, Crime, Human Rights, Jackie Smith, Police and Justice | Tagged: Chris Grayling, Conservative Party, Conservative Party Policy, Crime, DNA, Human Rights, Identification, Jackie Smith, Law and Order, liberty, Northern Ireland politics, Police and Justice | Leave a Comment »