Parliamentary DNA database debate condemns criminalisation of mental health patients

Parliamentary DNA database debate condemns criminalisation of mental health patients

Church leaders and the human rights group, have backed Black Mental Health UK’s call to have data of innocent mental health patients removed from the National DNA database.

The calls come in the wake of the House of Commons debate, secured by Sarah Teather MP, on the discriminatory impact of the National DNA Database on black and ethnic minority people.

With African Caribbean’s routinely entering mental health services via the police or criminal justice system BMH UK say that the retention of genetic data of thousands of black patients that have been added to the database during the process of trying to access mental health care is a violation of their civil liberties and could inadvertently expose them to criminal profiling.

The government’s own figures suggest that 77% of young black men will soon have their details held on the database, despite the fact that black people actually less likely to committed a crime than their white counterparts. BMH UK believe that the database is criminalising one of society’s most vunerable and marginalised groups.

‘Pathways into care for black patients are invariably via the police or criminal justice system, this means that countless people with healthcare needs are being criminalised in the process of seeking help.

It must be disturbing for both patients and their families to know that those needing healthcare are on a criminal database. Where ever this is the case it is imperative that their details are removed as quickly as possible. It is untenable to think that we can live in a society that penalises those seeking help’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

Tether MP for Brent East, tabled the debate on the discriminatory impact of the National DNA Database on black and ethnic minority people, which came before parliament last Friday at 20.00pm.

The UK has the largest National DNA Database in the world, with 4.5 million profiles set to be held by the Government by 2010. There are currently 500,000 people on the database who have no current conviction, caution, formal warning or reprimand and three quarters are young black men,’ Sarah Tether MP said during the debate in the House.

‘The injustices of bad science could lead to innocent people being condemned in the future. The public have no way of knowing how secure this information is that they are taking. If someone steals your DNA what the implications? Loosing Child benefit details is one thing, but a persons DNA is part of who they are. This is another hostile move against the freedom and civil liberty that should be protected.

When people who need help are taken in by the Police we find that they are very quick to take a swab rather than ensure the wellbeing of the person. We had concerns about this from the outset and just like the ‘stop and search powers’ given to the police we are seeing that our reservations were well founded,’ Rev Paul Grey of New Testament Church of God said.

‘The over representation of black people on the DNA data base is at a record high with a total of 77% of all young black men’s details now on record. However 55% of those who have their details on the database have never been charged with anything’ Tether told the House on Friday.

‘The database most unwelcome and is bringing division rather than healing within our communities, as it is our young people being stopped by the police, often for no justifiable reason.

We have no confidence in the Government controlling this, in light of the recent data losses we have seen, and this information in the wrong hands could be catastrophic,’ pastor Desmond Hall, chair of Christians Together in Brent said.

“The over-representation of black people on the Labour Government’s database should horrify anyone who cares about justice and fair play. There is a real danger that the DNA database just reinforces the myth that black people are more likely to commit crime, and that is a very dangerous untruth. “The truth is, if you are black, you are no more likely to commit crime and more likely to be a victim of crime,’ Local Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East Sarah Teather said.

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