DNA database poses the biggest threat to community relations to date

DNA database poses the biggest threat to community relations to date

Home Office plans to keep innocent DNA on the national criminal DNA database for up to 12 years poses the biggest threat to community cohesion and race relations that Britain that has been seen in decades, BMH UK (Black Mental Health UK) have warned in their response to Government consultation, ‘Keeping the Right People on the DNA database.’

The Government consultation on changes to the rules about the DNA database was introduced after a European Court of Human Rights ruling found that the current practice of retaining the DNA profiles of innocent people who had not been convicted of any crime to be illegal.
The Home Office Consultation invited responses to the Government’s proposals to keep the DNA profiles of people who have not been charged with committing a crime for up to 12 years, or indefinitely if they have been found guilty of an offence.
Innocent people from black communities, especially young black men, are over-represented on the National Criminal DNA Database but have been notably absent from debates about who should be on the database.
Currently 77 percent of young black men between the age of 18 and 35 have their DNA on the database. Three out of four black men living in the UK have their DNA on the database even though the Home Office’s research shows that this group have lower offending rates than their white counterparts. Shocking figures also show that the DNA database holds the genetic profiles of almost a quarter of all black children resident in the UK.

Experts point out that vulnerable people in need of mental health care are finding themselves criminalised by this system.

• BMH UK’s consultation response noted with concern the exclusion of black groups from this consultation warning of the damage this could have on community relations as well as reinforcing the view that the database is an attempt to criminalise a whole community by stealth.
• BMH UK also called into question the efficacy of the research used by the Home Office to support it’s proposals which has been widely criticised by other experts.
• BMH UK’s response drew attention to the issue that the consultation failed to address the disproportionate numbers of innocent adults and children from African Caribbean communities on the database.
• BMH UK highlighted concerns over the impact which that DNA database has had on criminalising vulnerable mental health patients who are detained in police custody when sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
• BMH UK concur with recommendations made by the Human Genetics Commission and the Equalities Commission that the DNA database should be overseen and managed by an independent adjudicator.

‘There is a need to balance the fight against crime with the right to respect for privacy set out in Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The proposals set out in the Home Office consultation does not strike this balance. 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.

‘We hope that after hearing all the main points, the Minister will reconsider this position of retaining innocent DNA on the criminal database for up to 12 years and move more in line with the spirit and the letter of European court ruling,’ Olu Alake president of 100 Black Men of London said.

‘If you want the BME communities to trust the police and the establishment then they must be open and transparent. What are the reasons for storing such large numbers of innocent peoples DNA? It undermines community cohesion and a lot of good work that has been done,’ Pastor Desmond Hall, Christian Together in Brent.

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Website: http://www.blackmentalhealth.org.uk
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