Saturday, February 23, 2008

Should the UK introduce a universal compulsory, or voluntary, national DNA Database? What ethical issues would it raise?

Should everyones DNA record be held on a National Database? What are the ethical considerations? What do you think?

Calls for expansion of the UK's DNA database

DNA in depth || Debating ethics of DNA database || Has our DNA database gone too far? || All UK 'must be on DNA database'

Mandatory DNA database rejected
Mark Dixie [South London Guardian] and Steve Wright
Both killers were convicted with compelling DNA evidence
There are no plans to extend the DNA database to contain information from all people, the Home Office has said.

Calls for its content to be made universal have followed the conviction of two murderers using DNA evidence.

Suffolk serial killer Steve Wright and Sally Anne Bowman's murderer, Mark Dixie

were both captured because their DNA was taken after unrelated offences.

But the Home Office said a mandatory database "would raise significant practical and ethical issues".

The DNA database, which covers England and Wales, currently contains around 4.5m profiles - routinely taken from criminal suspects after most arrests.
7% of UK adult population

However, it could be threatened when European judges are asked to rule next week on a test case of two Britons who want their details removed from the database.

The applicants say their human rights have been infringed by the decision to leave their details on the database, despite the fact that they had never been found guilty of a crime.

Debate call

Steve Wright's profile was on the system after being convicted of theft in 2003.

When police found his DNA on the bodies of some of his victims they matched it with his profile.

But Mark Dixie was not on the system at the time of Sally Anne Bowman's murder.

It was only when he was arrested for assault after a fight in a bar that his DNA was taken and he was linked to the murder.

He was arrested within five hours.

Det Supt Stuart Cundy, who led the murder hunt, said: "It is my opinion that a national DNA register - with all its appropriate safeguards - could have identified Sally Anne's murderer within 24 hours.

"Instead it took nearly nine months before Mark Dixie was identified and almost two and a half years for justice to be done."

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is also calling for a debate on the issue.

'Vital role'

The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, Tony Lake, speaks for the association on DNA.

He said: "If there was a national database of everybody then we would solve more crime, of that there is absolutely no doubt.

"In the conviction of Steve Wright - and today of Mark Dixie - you've heard about the vital importance that DNA played. But any database that we hold has to be reasonable and proportionate in the eyes of the public."

The statement issued by the Home Office said: "There are no government plans to introduce a universal compulsory, or voluntary, national DNA Database and to do so would raise significant practical and ethical issues."

The Times estimates if the two applicants succeed in their EU bid to have their records removed, 13% of the profiles on the database may have to be destroyed.

The pair, from Sheffield, had their DNA taken after they were arrested in 2001, but charges were not pressed.

They asked for their data to be removed from the DNA database but this was refused.

They are appealing on the grounds that Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private life, and Article 14, the prohibition of discrimination, have been violated.

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