Research by the human rights campaigns group, Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK), has revealed public opinion is against this practice, which health experts have warned is criminalising one society’s most vulnerable groups.
The findings have been welcomed from many quarters, as confirmation that this practice needs to end.
The survey’s findings, published this week, are based on results of 742 respondents who took part in this research through an online survey, which offered readers chance to give their views on this practice of adding the genetic profiles of mental health patients who come in contact with the police.
An overwhelming 88.41% of those surveyed said they were against the practice of taking the DNA of mental health patients, who come in contact with the police or criminal justice system while trying to access care.
10.70% of those who took part in the survey said they did not know if DNA should be retained or not. A mere 0.81% said that they agreed with the current practice of taking DNA from service users who have not been convicted of any crime.
The campaigns group say these finding make it clear that this practice is not only unethical but also highly unpopular.
The online opinion poll was launched in May this year and ran for three month. This survey marked the first opportunity for the general public to voice their opinion on an issues that is impacting on greater sections of society.
‘If there is a real commitment to address the stigma and barriers to recovery for people who use the services, then the Government should not allow this practice to continue. It is clear from the findings of our research that people are opposed to seeing those who need help, being added to a database introduced to keep the profiles of convicted criminals.
This is taking up alot of public money that would be better spent on strategies that help people recover and reintegrate back into society, not resources systems that put up barriers and label them criminals for life,’ Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK said.
‘This new research re-empahases the point that it is unfair to add a persons details to a criminal database when they haven’t done anything wrong. It is horrendous to think that that when people are ill and need help but don’t know how to access it and so end up in the custody of the police that their DNA is taken.
It is a dereliction of duty for the Government to allow vulnerable people to be treated in this way. This is something that will change the vote as almost every black family in the country is effected by this. The way we have been treated means that the Government can no longer rely on the block black vote.’ Pastor Desmond Hall chair of Christians Together in Brent said.
‘Part of justice is that you are considered innocent until proven guilty. This practice blurs that boundary and begs the questions, why are people on the database if they haven’t committed any crime. People needing mental health care are vulnerable and when people are vulnerable it is important to protect them. Part of the freedoms and civil liberties we have in this country is that we are able to keep what belong to us, and there is nothing more personal that our DNA.
With the number of Government data losses we have seen, there is no confidence in the security of this data or how it will be used,” Rev Paul Grey, pastor of Nuneaton branch of the New Testament Church of God said.
‘The response on to this poll is outstanding. It shows that the public who visit this site share the view that this practice of taking the DNA of innocent and vulnerable people has to stop.
It confirms the reservations we have expressed about this database and shows that there needs to be proper consultation with the communities. Right now the Government are completely out of step with what the people that they are supposed to represent adn have been elected to serve.
It is these kinds of practices that are damaging any work that leaders are trying to do around community cohesion. It mean that loyalty to that was once so strong amongst black groups for this Government is literally being shattered,’ Pastor Ode Omooba, director of Cohesive and Coherent voice said.
“Many people with mental health problems are arrested in our streets before the police realise what is wrong. It is shocking that their DNA and fingerprints are now routinely taken and kept on criminal databases for life”, Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK said.
‘This survey confirms what we said, because we have already objected to this but confirms the early impression that Government shouldn’t proceed with this.
They need to rethink the situation, especially with all the insecurity over the data that is kept by Government. There are alot of reason why this needs to be reviewed, not least of all because it is not good for the mental health and well being of a patient to know that they on a criminal database ,’ consultant psychiatrist, prof Suman Fernando said.