Sunday, May 5, 2013

That word 'could' again.

Could and should are the most insidious words in the lexicon of those who would ban things or remove essential freedoms from us in the name of security, health and often enough crime prevention.
And so it is with the police crying out over plans to make them destroy DNA samples after six months...
Mail. (Usual caveats)
Police and scientists have warned that dangerous criminals could escape justice because of a ‘baffling’ Government decision to destroy six million DNA samples.
It means detectives will no longer be able to use a pioneering investigative tool – familial DNA testing – that narrows down suspects using forensic material from relatives.
Martin Bottomley, who leads a specialist police team which uses the technique, argues some cases will now be ‘impossible’ to solve.
And top forensic investigator Patricia Wiltshire, whose evidence was crucial in convicting Ian Huntley of the Soham murders, said: ‘It is a crazy, retrograde move. In forensic protocols and police procedures, Britain is respected worldwide, but this could damage our reputation.’
The process of erasing all existing samples began in December and is due to be completed this month.
In addition, under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 – legislation championed by Nick Clegg in response to a European human-rights ruling – all new samples must now be destroyed within six months.
Ah yes, familial DNA testing, just another tool in the armoury of the police which requires ever more of our DNA to be on record 'just in case' meaning that the police once they have it for any reason will want to keep it.
There are the usual nothing to hide nothing to fear arguments going on in the comments, though the consensus seems to be that somehow or other this is a mistake, though many admit even with such records, mistakes are made.
Part of the problem seems to be that the police have swung into the position that DNA sampling is their first and foremost tool in criminal investigations rather than the old fashioned method of asking questions and investigating. Mistakes can and have been made and the police know this, but still want as much of the population as they can on the databases they have.
There's an old maxim that goes somewhat on the lines of 'It's better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be wrongly convicted' something that the police and CPS as well as the powers that be seem incapable of understanding as they demand that the law is flouted in order to keep their precious databases. Sure you can argue that if everyone had their DNA on record certain crimes would be easy to solve, though I can think of a few examples where false accusations can be made of someone who happened to be there and did not commit the act they are accused of (Julia has a whole file full of false rape claims) Yet there are some of us who believe that our DNA is our own and that the state should not have it on record save only if we are previously convicted criminals, after all do you trust the bastards in power? Sooner or later someone would come up with another reason for such records if only to experiment on certain genomes who happen to be inconvenient.
Could and should does not mean will, no matter how hard the powers that be try to tell us it does.

2 annotations:

The Stigler said...

The Soham case was solved mostly because of the police observing his behaviour: he was helping but asking too many questions and saying things that suggested he knew more than he was letting on.

When they found the girls' burnt shirts at the school, this only made them even more suspicious of him.

Then it was phone records. Cell tower records destroyed Carr's alibi for him, and also showed that the girls had been near his house.

Which FINALLY led to analysis of soil on his car tyres, pollen on the car, and his DNA matching hairs found on the girls clothing.

It's not certain that DNA alone convicted him. It was DNA plus everything else that did it.

Michael said...

DNA is far from being the "Magic Bullet" it is generally claimed to be. It requires a probability analysis (Remember Mr Meadows and "Meadows Law"?) and the CPS and Polizei have form when it comes to misusing this sort of thing.