Friday, December 05, 2008

17 judges, one ruling - and 857,000 records must be now wiped clear.

I spoke yesterday of how, here in Britain, the government are seeking to build a Big Brother like state by stealth and am delighted today to report that the European court of human rights in Strasbourg are at least doing something to make the building of that Big Brother state more difficult.

Up until now the British police have been retaining the DNA of every person they arrest, even if no charges are eventually brought. This is, as most of the proposals I most object to are, a gross violation of the privacy of the people involved, which - I am pleased to note - is the very reason why the European court of human rights are barring the practice.

In one of their most strongly worded judgments in recent years, the unanimous ruling from the 17 judges, including a British judge, Nicolas Bratza, condemned the "blanket and indiscriminate" nature of the powers given to the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to retain the DNA samples and fingerprints of suspects who have been released or cleared.

The judges were highly critical of the fact that the DNA samples could be retained without time limit and regardless of the seriousness of the offence, or the age of the suspect.

The court said there was a particular risk that innocent people would be stigmatised because they were being treated in the same way as convicted criminals. The judges added that the fact DNA profiles could be used to identify family relationships between individuals, meant its indefinite retention also amounted to an interference with their right to respect for their private lives under the human rights convention.

In this war on a noun, one of the first things the government will assault will be our right to privacy and they will use the argument that if one has nothing to hide then one should have nothing to fear. This is an absurd argument, as it presupposes that no-one should have anything which they regard as private and personal.

Not that the British government are going to give up their right to cling to the DNA of innocent people without a fight.

The case provoked an expression of disappointment from the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and the promise that a working party, including senior police officials, will report back to Strasbourg by next March on how the government will comply with the judgement.

"The government mounted a robust defence before the court and I strongly believe DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime and bringing people to justice. The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgement."

The government are, of course, twisting the argument of those who oppose what they do. No-one is arguing that DNA and fingerprinting are not invaluable tools in fighting crime, we are merely stating that one has to have committed some form of crime before the government has the right to hold such personal details on file.

The British government currently holds the largest proportional DNA base in the world. The Strasbourg ruling means that they should start destroying all the records they hold of innocent people. It'll be very interesting to see how they respond, because they are not going to want to give up all of that information, including the DNA of children, which they hold without a fight.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "This is one of the most strongly worded judgements that Liberty has ever seen from the court of human rights. The court has used human rights principles and common sense to deliver the privacy protection of innocent people that the British government has shamefully failed to deliver."
Strasbourg has rightly condemned - and strongly - this practice by the British government; now we have to watch to see how the British government attempts to slither around this ruling.

Click title for full article.


nunya said...

Wow. I never would have suspected the British government of keeping DNA samples on innocent people.

Kel said...


They are not only keeping them but the radio is today full of people putting forward the argument of why they should be allowed to keep them.

Ingrid said...

Kel, this alex jones political activist has commented on many times how the UK has been turning into a very gov't controlled state (as in, state of being) with tight security ('anti-terror') controls that one would never have expected. I believe they've gone much further than even here in the US...Blair went the same route as Bush and now with obama in place, one wonders if these 'laws' will be retracted, here and in the UK. Somehow I am still worried..


Kel said...


The increase in state power in the name of fighting terror here in the UK has been unbelievable.

They are giving themselves the right to listen to any call and intercept any email. Privacy has become a thing of the past in this country.