The Liberal Democrats, the largest Group on the Council, have tabled a Motion called “Justice for All Brent Residents” for debate at Full Council next Monday, 22nd January. If this is carried, Brent will become one of the first Councils in the country to take a firm stance on the issue and tackle the Police head on.
Over 3.6 million people had details held on the national DNA database at the end of 2006. However, a THIRD of young black men have had DNA samples taken, a proportion that over-represents the Afro-Caribbean population by more than 10 times.
The Lib Dems in Brent are particularly targeting the abuse by the Police of the use of Section 5 Public Order offences to collect DNA samples by stealth. These are cases where people get stopped, may become angry about this or challenge the actions of the Police Officer or the basis on which they were targeted, and then get slapped with a Fixed Penalty Notice. A DNA sample will then be taken at the Police station, and the person arrested has no right to ever have that record removed from the database – even though they are not formally charged.
Councillor James Allie, an Executive member in Brent of Sierra Leonean origin, had direct experience of this. In Christmas 2005 he was stopped for no clear reason by Brent Police while jogging in Queens Park. When he objected, he was issued with a Section 5 Public Order Fixed Penalty Notice and held at a Police Station for 6 hours on Boxing Day. Refusing to accept the Penalty, he opted to take the issue to court and fight it head on. Despite dragging on for over a year, the case, when finally heard, was thrown out in around 5 minutes.
He believes many more people are being stopped without justification, particularly young black men, and when objections are made the Police issue a Penalty to try to justify the stop.
Councillor Allie says: ” It is sad that as we commemorate the Bicentenary of the abolition of slavery, the Police continue to target young black men. There is every indication from the DNA database that this is widespread. If it isn’t, why have over a third of people whose samples have been taken never been convicted of a crime, yet their DNA, the very basis of their being, is held on a Government Big Brother database?”
” There has never been proper a public debate on or people’s consent for this, and it is currently at local Commanders’ discretion whether they make it obligatory. We are saying that right here and now, in the most diverse borough in the UK, that with such an imbalanced racial profile on the DNA register and the clearly disproportionate impact on particular communities, automatic DNA sampling must stop. Period.”
” I am proud that the Lib Dems in Brent will not tolerate any attempts by the Police to destroy the futures of innocent young black men. I can only hope we are joined by other parties in Brent, so the Council can adopt a very clear formal position on this.”
The motion tabled by the Liberal Democrats also calls for :
• The Metropolitan Police as a whole to end the practice of automatic sampling
• Regular figures on stops and samples taken, and the ethnic breakdown of these, to be produced for monitoring by local Police partnerships
• A national framework to govern the use of DNA – ending the discretion of Borough Police Commanders to let Officers demand samples as a matter of course
• A process to enable DNA records held on those who have never been charged with an offence, or who have been subsequently acquitted, to be destroyed.