Parliamentary reception confirms DNA database- an election issue for Black Britain
A parliamentary reception on the impact that the national criminal DNA database has had on innocent people the African Caribbean community has confirmed that this has become an election issue for black Britain.
Church leaders and community activists joined politicians in a packed meeting at the House of Common’s last week to learn about Government plans on the retention of innocent DNA set out in the Crime and Security Bill. New proposals within this Bill are set to allow the police to keep innocent DNA on the criminal DNA database for up to 8 years.
Organised by Black Mental Health UK in association with Gene Watch UK this meeting offered the only opportunity for both politicians and community leaders to learn about an injustice which has resulted in the DNA database criminalising every black family living in the UK.
With less than two months to go until the next general election the main political parties have begun to recognise the significance of the black electorate.
Speakers at this event included Paul Homes MP, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, Olu Alake, president of 100 Black Men Of London, Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, Anita Coles, policy officer of Liberty, Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK and Pastor Desmond Hall, chair of Christian’s together in Brent and Sarah Teather MP.
Delegates learned from the event host James Brokenshire MP how the Home Office had submitted falsified evidence to the select committee looking at the Bill to justify the police collection of innocent DNA. Many were shocked to learn that less than 1% of crimes are solved using DNA.
Over 90 delegates attended last Tuesday’s meeting which had been organised as a call to action in order to bring about change in the shocking statistics which shows that 77% of young black men are profiled on the database, even though Home Office research shows that this group are less likely to commit a crime than their white counterparts.
Delegates at this meeting heard how it is not only innocent young black men who have fallen prey to being profiled on the DNA database. The over policing of these communities has resulted in 42% of the black male population and 23% of black children between the ages of 10 and 16 compared to 10% of white children being profiled on this database.
There was a consensus at this meeting that the DNA database is now recognised as an election issue. The significance of the black electorate was identified as a major driver in turning back the tide that has eroded black people’s civil liberties as research shows that ethnic minorities now hold the balance of power in close to 100 constituencies.
‘The DNA database has led to a wholesale assault on black people’s civil liberties. The purpose of retaining an individual’s DNA profile in a database is to treat them as a suspect for any future crime. Those who are on it can be turned down for a visa or a job,’ Dr Helen Wallace director of Gene Watch UK said.
‘We as a community cannot afford to elect any government that would criminalise us when we have not been found guilty of any crime. It is important that we find out how MP from all the parties vote on the Crime and Security Bill and remember this when we go to the polls in May,’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK.
‘The database has deepened the mistrust many young people have of the police. It is hard to understand how the Government can expect young men to have faith in such a system that treats them so unfairly,’ Pastor Desmond Hall, chair of Christians Together in Brent said.
‘It’s never too late to decided that you want to work to see a change and one of the most effective ways to fight for change is through the ballot box,’ Winsome Cornish communications director at OBV said.
‘The DNA of innocent people should be removed in all instances, except where someone has been arrested for a serious or violent crime. This is our party’s commitment and we have put down amendments to the Crime and Security Bill calling for this,’ James Brokenshire MP, shadow minister for crime reduction said.