Thu, 11 Feb 2010

Home Office: five equals four

The Home Office sent a letter to MPs sitting on the Committee scrutinising the Crime and Security Bill 2009-10 describing five case studies allegedly supporting their arguments for retention of the DNA profiles of innocents. It turns out that two of these five cases studies are one and the same! From the description of this letter by Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Brokenshire during the Committee stage, the error should have been easily spotted by anyone reading the details of the letter and not just stopping at the number of cases included. After the irrelevant Jill Dando Institute research based on a few days of data and disavowed by the Institute's 'you might as well just stick your finger in the air and think of a number' director, the ACRO research that 'does not provide evidence to inform the length of any general DNA retention period', the many cases mentioned where retention of the individual profiles made no difference, comes the duplicated case in a document describing only fivefour cases:

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the interrelationship between other evidence, other more general policing issues and the data that might be available. [Interruption.] Before I give way to the Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, I should like to refer to case study 5.

In 2006 a Dutch male was arrested on suspicion of robbery. This was investigated and his DNA was taken before he was released without charge. In 2008 that same male was further arrested for rape after being identified by the victim. The DNA crime scene samples taken at the time were found to match the suspect’s DNA profile, already held on the national DNA database, and he was later tried and convicted in court. Abdirahman Ali Gudaal was Dutch. He was arrested for robbery in 2006. He was said to have raped somebody in 2008. I therefore submit that case studies 1 and 5 are one and the same case. Could the Minister look into that? It seems strange that two Dutch people were arrested for robbery in 2006, committed a rape in 2008 and were subsequently convicted.

James Brokenshire: [...] Now that we have had our lunch break, is the right hon. Gentleman able to respond to a point that I raised in relation to the case studies that he cited in the letter that was handed to the Committee? He did not seem to disagree with my comment that case study 5 and case study 1 might be one and the same case. That is quite important because obviously the letter has been put before the Committee. The facts in case study 5 are quite limited, and I made my assumption based on the limited facts. I do not know whether the Minister has sought clarification over the lunch break. Perhaps he can respond on that point.

Mr. Hanson: I will happily cover that point now, in an intervention. Having checked the matter, I can say that case study 1 and case study 5 are the same case. One reason why there is some difficulty is that we have been seeking to ensure that we get victim approval when victims’ names are put into the public domain. Every name that I have mentioned in my contributions has had the victim’s approval of it being put into the public domain. There was some confusion over those cases. I will clarify the matter if necessary by letter for the Committee, but we have many more cases that we have permission to use, and I will do so during the debate.

Deliberate misleading or incompetence? The Home Office must be pretty desperate.

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