Tue, 11 Nov 2008

The Human Genetics Commission's NDNAD and PACE review consultations

As mentioned last week, the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) ran a consultation to seek further views on the National DNA Database and on the issues highlighted by its Citizens Inquiry. The aim is to inform the development of the HGCs own conclusions and advice to Government. In the meantime, to have a better understanding of some of the issues associated with such a massive database retaining our most intimate information, here are some of the submissions:

You still have a couple weeks, until 2008-11-28, to respond to another consultation - this one from the Home Office - that includes some questions concerning Police taking our DNA, among other plans of police powers' increases: PACE review: government proposals in response to the review of the police and criminal evidence act 1984. The proposal introduces creating spaces to detain individuals in busy areas:

10.19 The problem is particularly acute in busy urban areas or major shopping areas. The volumes of suspected offenders means that the efficiency of custody throughput is severely impacted, often with people suspected of high volume, low level offences. A potential solution is to enable the police to make use of short term holding facilities (STHF) located in shopping centres or town centres. The STHF would be secure accommodation but would not equate to the standard cell design. The main function would be to confirm the identity of the suspect and process the person by reporting for summons/ charging by post, a penalty notice or other disposal. Persons detained would be subject to detention up to a maximum period of 4 hours to enable fingerprinting, photographing and DNA sampling. The STHF would not be considered suitable where an investigation was required and the use of such a facility would be subject to strict criteria on type of offence, age or other potential vulnerability of the person.

Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK warned in a GeneWatch's response, "There are major safety issues with collecting DNA outside of police stations. Police powers to use 'reasonable force' to pull out someone's hair should not be exercised outside a place of safety. Expanding numbers of non-police staff also increase the likelihood that criminals will infiltrate the system and obtain the DNA of vulnerable persons whose identity needs to be protected".

A summary of responses will be published by the Home Office on its PACE Review update page.

It's unclear how much effect responses to these many consultations do have, but as these are rare occasions when the public at large are invited to voice concerns you may want to take the time to go through the 60-page document and write to the Home Office. The number of responses generally positive or negative may be as important as the detailed content of the responses.

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