The outcome of the pre – election ‘wash-up, which includes a debate on the controversial Crime and security Bill, is likely to have a major impact on how the black electorate vote in this year’s general election.
The Crime and Security Bill is among one of eight bills the Government plans to rush through in the next 48 hours before parliament is dissolved. Plans within this Bill will allow the police to keep the DNA profiles of innocent people on the national criminal database for up to six years.
The disproportionate numbers of innocent people from Briton’s African Caribbean communities who are profiled on this system mean that if passed, this Bill will erode the civil liberties of almost every black family in living in the UK.
Government figures show that 42% of the entire black male population and 77% of all young black men are profiled on the database, even though the Home Office’s own research shows that people from this group are less likely to commit a crime than their white counterparts.
DNA profiles can be used to track an individual or their relatives. With at least one member of every family from this community profiled on this system, human rights groups say that the DNA database has criminalised every black Briton living in the UK.
Community leaders say the government needs to make a commitment to remove all innocent DNA from the criminal database in order to restore community relations.
Research shows that ethnic minorities hold the balance of power in over 90 constituencies, so ignoring their concerns could lead to heavy electoral losses. The damaging and personal nature of this issue has meant that the DNA database has fast become an election issue for black voters.
‘It is unlikely that anyone would vote for a party that will put in place policies that will criminalise them when they have not done anything wrong. This government needs to rethink their position on the retention of innocent DNA as it is clearly an election issue for black voters. The DNA database touches the lives of every person from the community, with black people holding the balance of power in just under 100 seats this is an issue that could swing an election,’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.
‘If the Government were acting responsibly it would back down and agree to Conservative and Liberal Democrat proposals to implement proposals similar to the Scottish system. This would mean most innocent peoples DNA would be destroyed immediately and those accused of serious offences would be kept for three years.
If the government persists in keeping large numbers of innocent DNA it will have a disproportionate impact on black people who are being criminalised by the current policy,’ Helen Wallace, director of Gene Watch UK said
‘I would like to see the Crime and Security Bill dropped and failing that at least see the proposal for the retention of innocent DNA removed. The policies on DNA in this Bill are not in the best interest of people, especially not black people who have in fact been criminalised by this system ,’ Olu Alake chair of 100 Black Men of London said.
‘The DNA database is a decisive issue for our communities. So many of our youths are on it even though they haven’t ever committed any crime and their parents are worried about what implications this could have for their future.
I hope the government drops this agenda and looks at the interests of the people that it has been elected to serve. We as a community have been very loyal when it comes to supporting a Labour government in the past, but I don’t know how many people are likely to support any administration that brings in policies that criminalises the innocent,’ Pastor Desmond Hall, chair of Christians Together in Brent said.
Black Mental Health UK is a human rights campaigns group that works to influence legislation and public policy effecting minority communities. BMH UK specialise in lobbying, media and marketing, public education and campaigns.
BMH UK has launched a 10 Downing Street Petition on the DNA database
Campaign supporters include: Church of God of Prophesy, Two Way Street, Stone Ashdown Trust, People With Voices, Mighty Men of Valour, 100 Black Men of London, Gene Watch UK, African Caribbean Community Initiative, Operation Black Vote, Christians Together in Brent, The Male Development Agency (Boyz To Men), Nubeyound Limited, Christians Together in Brent, The Runnymede Trust.
57% of innocent DNA samples taken in London are from the black population, 27 % of the entire black population are on the NDNAD, 42 % of the male black population are on the DNAD, 77 %. of young black men are on the NDNAD, 6 % of the white population are on the NDNAD, Black people have lower offending rates than their white counterparts.
Close to one out of four black children (23%) compared to one out of ten white children (10%) are profiled on this system.
European Court of Human Rights ruled in December 2008, that the UK Government was acting unlawfully by retaining the DNA profiles, samples and fingerprints of innocent people indefinitely
In 2006, GeneWatch revealed that stored DNA samples had been used for genetic research without the consent of the individuals involved, including controversial research to try to predict ethnicity from DNA.
Familial tracing through an individual’s DNA means that profiles can be used to track relatives, and the samples contain unlimited genetic information including data on a person’s health