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NEWS > 31 December 2006

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Police are back in the firing line for accepting discounted goods and services such as cheap home loans and cut-price cellphones.

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 Article sourced from

Scotsman - United Kingdom
31 December 2006
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Jamieson's genetic blueprint f

DNA is one of the most startling discoveries of modern science. It has given us an unprecedented insight into our physical makeup and the complexities of human genetics and biology. We have not yet fully grasped its wider implications and that is now becoming a problem. The progress being made by scientists is rapidly outstripping the capability of the rest of us to integrate this awesome new knowledge into the mainstream structure of society.

Nothing could better illustrate this gulf than the announcement that the Scottish Labour Party will make a manifesto commitment at next May's Holyrood elections to change the law so that police can retain the DNA samples of persons who have been involved in investigations but have not been convicted. So the DNA of innocent citizens would be retained on a police database. That offends against every principle of justice, civil liberty and democracy.

The prime mover in this latest assault on personal freedom is Cathy Jamieson, the Justice Minister. Jamieson is the worst minister ever to preside over our criminal justice system: the hallmark of her administration of Scottish justice has been an ever-increasing indulgence of offenders complemented by indifference towards their victims. Now, however, she is suddenly crusading as the scourge of crime, the pioneering reformer who will restore law and order at a stroke, by the illogical expedient of storing innocent citizens' DNA on a police database.

Jamieson has imparted a further irony to the situation by claiming her objective is to bring Scottish DNA law into line with England. Since when was that the function of a devolved administration? At present, police databases in England hold the DNA profiles of 1.14 million innocent people - a practice forbidden under Scots law. At present, we can congratulate ourselves on living under a legal system more respectful of civil liberty than in England. The Scottish Parliament should be fighting to maintain that situation.

Instead, perversely, Labour proposes to use its control of Holyrood to demolish the defences of Scottish personal liberties and harmonise our laws with those of England, as in pre-devolution times. South of the Border, the DNA of 3.46 million people is stored in police records, the highest number in the world - more than in Putin's Russia. That is an embryonic police state.

The control-freak instincts of the Blair regime, over a decade, have dramatically changed the climate of civil liberties in England. When, at the height of a crisis in law and order, we see a Boxing Day meet in England, with some of the most substantial members of society engaging in a wholly lawful pursuit, being surreptitiously filmed by two police officers, we know that the surveillance society has grown out of hand.

There is a case made by supporters of extended DNA records that has to be addressed. The claim is that 88 murders and 116 rapes in England were solved as a consequence of storing the DNA of former suspects. If these figures are accurate (and the authorities have every motivation to exaggerate them), that does not in any way prove that the same results could not have been achieved by standard police procedure. It would have entailed much more footwork and that is one of the reasons why the police are keen to store as much DNA as possible.

It should be noted that Labour wants not only to store the DNA profiles of innocent citizens, but also to retain the actual biological samples, which is extremely sinister. If you believe there has never been a corrupt police officer desperate to secure a conviction, then you will feel confident that your DNA could never be smeared at a crime scene, providing apparently watertight scientific evidence of your presence there. If you take a more sceptical view, you will be very concerned indeed. Even at the level of innocent incompetence, as the Shirley McKie case demonstrated, scientific evidence is not infallible.

Laws protecting personal freedom must be predicated on worst-case scenarios, however unlikely. You might feel relaxed about your DNA being in the possession of a Labour or Tory government; but what about a BNP administration? The concept may be far-fetched, but the law should anticipate every eventuality.

To put it at its most extreme, storing DNA makes it a scientific possibility that the state could clone individual citizens. While that seems an absurdity and it is impossible to conceive of a situation where it would be to the advantage of even the most malevolent state to do so, that fanciful scenario illustrates the level of intrusion into our very identity that this proposed law represents. Our DNA should be more private and inaccessible than our bank accounts.

There is a danger that the entire political community, including opponents as well as supporters of the Labour policy, has underestimated the significance of this issue. It embodies a wide-ranging philosophical debate involving the relationship between the citizen and the state, the concept of individual identity and the personal privacy that should be the birthright of every man and woman living in a democratic society.

Already there are proposals that the DNA of all new-born babies should be recorded, so that eventually the whole population would be on a database. That is a grotesque, Orwellian concept: we cannot predict what further scientific developments may lend it a still more sinister aspect. If the Scottish Parliament, supposed guarantor of our rights and liberties, imports English totalitarian abuses into Scots law, it will lose the last shred of credibility remaining to it.

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