Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Big Brother

Well, this is interesting.

A million or so people on the DNA database who have not committed any offence.  Only 377 deletions in 2009.  Bloody shameful. 

The police can arrest you, take you to the station, fingerprint you, photograph you, take a sample of your DNA, decide they didn't need to arrest you after all, release you, send you on your merry way, and then retain all the photos, fingerprints and DNA samples for 12 years if they arrested you for a serious enough offence. 

Then, unless you can make a compelling case to the relevant Chief Constable that the records ought to be deleted, you remain on the database.  If you ever encounter another police officer, and they check up on you, there you are. 

According to a police officer of my acquaintance, they won't look at your record and assume you were wrongly arrested, and that's how you ended up on the database.  No.  They will look at your record and assume that you got away with it last time, and then arrest you again. 

Because, clearly, you are a criminal.  Well, you must be, you're on the database. 

Innocent until proven guilty?  Hardly.

I know the police have a bloody awful job.  That it's dangerous, frightening, tiresome, stressful, complicated, depressing, soul-destroying.  I know all that.  I wouldn't do their job for ten times what I am currently paid.  And I know that the law, and the officers of the law are probably all that stands between civilised society and terrifying violent anarchy.  More so in some places than others.  I know that. 

I just think they need to be a bit more careful about who they arrest, and why.  And that they should offer to delete the records immediately and with a good grace when they release people without charge. 

It might save a few lawsuits.  It might have saved that poor bastard in the news report's life. 

Welcome to the future.  Every bit as scary and dystopian as I thought it might be.


Anonymous said...

Even before DNA came into it, if you were ever arrested by the police in the year zog - and your name was entered onto police records (even if it was for stealing a penny sweet when you were 8 years old) - it stays on there, for good.

Orwell knew his stuff...

Isabella Golightly said...

In 2007 my father died. I hadn't seen him for 27 years. I was burgled in 1984 & the police attended. How did they link my dead father to me? They found a document (from 1970) with my name on it at his house, looked me up on their database, found a likely match from the 1984 burglary, looked me up on the electoral roll then sent the boys in blue round with the glad tidings. Extremely scary.

Anonymous said...

I passed on an award to you!

livesbythewoods said...

Cynicalscribble, hello! Well, it is possible to get it removed but it takes bloody ages and you have to use a lot of persistence. Not an experience I'd recommend.

Isabella, that is a long time to have your records on the system. Did they use a battering ram to get into the house to notify you?

Dragondays, thank you, I will take a look!

Isabella Golightly said...

I think I might have been lucky that day, because they just rang the doorbell. But then, I am white, middle-aged (nearly) and as close to middle class as anybody in "Egalitarian Australia" ever gets. If I'd been a Koori living in Redfern, no doubt they'd just have scrawled "he's dead" on a brick & thrown it through the window.

not twitter said...

I'm very worried about this DNA stuff. I could go intp a shop, hand over some money (with microscopic amounts of my DNA on it, leave and then someone else gets given this in change later.

On their way home, or the next day, a thug mugs them from behind, takes some money from their wallet and runs off dropping a note on the way.

The note is the only physical evidence the blobs have got so send it away for tests. Low and behold my DNA comes up and I was home alone that evening.

livesbythewoods said...

Isabella, believe me, being white and mostly middle class is no kind of safeguard.

I think "Brick telegrams" might catch on, though.

Twatter, I'd like to say something cheery and reassuring about how that could never happen, but hey, it could. Police are certainly not very high up my list of people I trust any more when it comes to intelligence gathering and preliminary investigation.