Take one British appeal court judge with time on his hands, add a police force that already has the largest DNA database in Europe, mix in some American-style biometric coercion and, finally, invite an excited media to listen to some far-fetched idea that surely, surely could never come true. What do you get? Another wedge hammered into the already widening cracks of our human rights.
I cannot be certain, but this story sounds like something that the current UK government – and certainly the US, Russian, Indian and Chinese governments – would be more than happy to get into the open. It is a simple form of haggling: get an authority figure to make a controversial statement, with an idea that is going to be initially rejected, and then just stand back and wait.
After a while people will have ostensibly forgotten that someone suggested an entire country’s population, along with every single visitor to that country, would have to have their DNA forcibly removed and stored. But then someone, in a couple of years time, comes along with the idea that anyone wishing to take out life insurance or perhaps have a driving licence would have to submit a DNA sample for “legal” reasons. That amounts to almost the entire population of the country, but it’s “voluntary”, so how many people will really object to this uncontentious piece of legislation?
The argument given for such an outrageous idea as a total residents and visitors DNA database is weak, to say the least: “a great many people who are walking the streets, and whose DNA would show them guilty of crimes, go free.” Judge Sedley made this point on radio this morning, with particular reference to rape and sexual abuse. Now this problem would have nothing to do with the appalling way in which rape and sexual abuse victims are treated in most countries, would it? The police service in the UK relies largely on permissive action: in other words, a crime is not generally dealt with unless someone reports it (unless the perpetrator happens to be attacking any of the instruments of an oppressive state, in which case action is always swift and intense).
Rape victims do not like coming forwards to report this terrible crime. Eaves , a victim support and research charity, has this to say:
The current rate of conviction for rape and other sexual offences currently stands at less than 6%. Rape is unique in English law as being an offence where the emphasis of guilt and truth-telling is upon the victim, not the defendant. Outside of the courtroom, the media reporting of rape and sexual offences heavily influences public understanding. The media often resorts to reducing victims and offenders to basic stereotypes, and in doing so, alienates women wishing to report attacks.
Note that DNA is not mentioned. It is the attitude to rape that is the issue here, strong evidence of a patriarchal society in which the importance of rape and sexual abuse is reduced to the level of traffic offences. If rapes were reported whenever they took place, then conviction rates would rise dramatically, and the number of rapes would also fall dramatically – think about it.
But, regardless of whether DNA evidence would improve the likelihood of rapists being convicted, the real reason for a national DNA database is unchanged. It is about ensuring that we are all recorded, lined up like good citizens who all do whatever the state says; the same state that condones the ritual massacre of species, toxification of the rivers, carbonization of the air and razing of globablly significant habitats. The same state that supports corporations in their desire to own us.
How long before those corporations have our DNA records?