Community and Church leaders condemn Home Office decision to retain innocent DNA for up to 12 years

Community and Church leaders condemn Home Office decision to retain innocent DNA for up to 12 years

Black church leaders have added their voice to the concerns raised by community groups over the Government’s decision to retain DNA profiles of close to a million innocent people for up to 12 years.

The DNA and fingerprints of people who have been cleared of crimes or have never been charged will be kept for six years and those accused of a serious violent or sexual offence but not convicted will be kept for 12 years.

These new proposals come as the Home Secretary Jackie Smith announced the launch of a new consultation in on the proposals to delete innocent people’s computerised DNA records and fingerprints in response to the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the current practice of storing innocent DNA is illegal.

‘A public consultation is welcome, but it is clear from the European Court Ruling on the retention of the DNA and fingerprints that profiles of people who have never even been charged with an offence or have been cleared of a crime should be removed from the database and destroyed.
Whole communities have found themselves criminalised by this system. For an innocent citizen to be expected to put up with a six to 12 year wait to have their DNA removed from a criminal database can hardly be deemed to be justice,’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

The over policing of black communities is reflected in the strong racial bias of the database, which is estimated to contain the DNA profiles of over a third of the black male population living in the UK, despite this group having lower lifetime offending rates than their white counterparts.

57% of innocent DNA taken in London alone comes from African Caribbean Communities.
An estimated 77% of young black men aged between 15 and 34 are also on the database, this has led to assertions from many quarters that rather than help to fight crime, the database has effectively criminalised a whole community.

‘Current practice has effectively criminalised a whole community, this potentially effects every black family in the UK it is a very serious issue. The Home Office’s response pays lip services to the European Ruling on the retention of innocent DNA, the government should put this judgement into full effect and destroy DNA profiles and fingerprints of every innocent person currently on the Database. There are people who face false accusations all the time, but when they are found innocent they should be afforded the same rights as every other law abiding citizen,’ Rev Pedro Okoro, lawyer and former chair of the executive board of African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance said.

‘The European ruling make it clear that unless innocent DNA is removed from the database and destroyed, the human rights of the innocent will continue to be violated. The reluctance to fully implement the European Court’s ruling can only lead us to assume that there is another agenda at play here, and targeting our innocent young black men is part of it. The database needs to be cleaned up or it could damage seriously community relations,’ Rev Desmond Hall chair of Christians Together in Brent said.

‘It is scary that a whole nation can be put on a database, when so many in the community aren’t even aware that they are on it. This trend in identifying young black men at an early age just in case they are doing something wrong is very disturbing. If you are innocent until proven guilty, then any information on you should be destroyed – otherwise the implication is that you are still guilty.’ Federick Clark executive director at the charity Mighty Men of Valour said.

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