Went to New Scotland Yard to meet with Gary Pugh (in charge of forensics) about DNA. DNA is taken from people who are arrested, some of whom are then found innocent. Now here’s the thing – if you look at the DNA taken from innocent people, a far higher proportion of it comes from members of the ethnic minorities than their overall proportion in the population. And remember we’re talking about people found innocent here – so it looks as if there’s something very troubling going on.
Anyway – having asked my Parliamentary Question a while back and got the numbers showing that an innocent member of an ethnic minority is much more likely to be wrongly arrested than an innocent white person, I had written to Sir Ian Blair (Met Police Commissioner) to ask why the figures are as they are? Is it discrimination resulting in ethnic minorities being wrongly arrested far too often or does he have some other explanation?
No answer for a long, long time. But eventually they agreed to have a look at the issue – hence my meeting today. However, it turned out they wanted to deal with the DNA side as opposed to the disproportionaly arresting innocent men side. Having first agreed that we would need another meeting about this somewhat important aspect with the appropriate person – we went on to discuss DNA.
I suppose they are concerned because I keep raising a number of issues around DNA in general and around the retention of DNA records from innocent people. (There’s more about this on the campaign website, http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/dna – including a link on the right hand side to an article I’ve written about why it matters even for innocent people if their DNA records are being wrongly kept).
Gary informed me that there is now to be an ‘ethics’ panel being set up, which is good – if belated – news. It was also clear that whilst DNA and its database was set up in regard to catching criminals (and I reassured him that I think in terms of a detection tool the sun shines out of DNA’s bottom) it is being used for a number of other – probably legitimate – purposes but also possibly open to less worthy ones and commercial ones.