The new 10 Downing Street petition launched by the human rights group, Black Mental Health UK, comes on the back of the documentary aired on the BBC’s ‘The One Show, which revealed that discriminatory way the DNA database has been used has effectively criminalised Britain’s black communities.
Organisers of this campaign say that plans set out in the new Crime and Security Bill to allow the police to retain innocent DNA for up to eight years does not comply with human rights law. In 2008 the European Court ruled that the retention of innocent DNA on the criminal database violates Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.
Equality experts are concerned at how the large numbers of innocent black people who are profiled on the database has led to the criminalisation of this group. They say that addressing this problem is critical to ensuring good community relations and note that this is fast becoming an election issue for Britain’s black communities.
In London alone 57% of innocent samples taken by the police are from people from African Caribbean communities. Disturbingly 42% of the entire black male population living in the UK, and 77% of all young black men, are profiled on the database even though the Home Office’s own research shows that people from this group are less likely to commit a crime than their white counterparts.
‘This touches the lives of every black family living in the UK and has turned into an election issue for this group. People don’t want to vote for a government that criminalises them, when they haven’t done anything wrong. Our online petition gives people the opportunity to speak out about this, ‘ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.
‘It is still the case in law that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but proposals set out by government on the retention of innocent DNA fundamentally blurs this. We have over 20 thousand church members who are implicated in this so they have a personal interest in supporting this petition’ Bishop Llewellyn Grayham, church of God of prophesy said.
‘Keeping innocent DNA on the criminal database will damage community cohesion and undo the good work that church has done with the police. It would be unrealistic to expect a community vote or put their trust in a government whose policies have criminalised them,’ Pastor Ade Omooba of Christian Concern for Our Nation said.
‘Its time for people to stand up for their rights, the black community is particularly affected by government intrusion on their rights – the DNA proposals now in parliament are just not good enough, people should sign the petition and also contact their MPs,’ Dr Helen Wallace director of Gene Watch UK said.
‘The disproportionate representation of the Black community, especially young Black males, on the database is a gross injustice that we expect the government to redress, and not compound,’ Olu Alake President of 100 Black Men of London said.
‘This has serious implications for our future civil liberties. This government needs to realise that their policy on keeping innocent DNA will damage community relations’ Frederick Clarke, director of Mighty Men of Valour said.