Monthly Archives: October 2009

Eamonn Butler writes in the Daily Telegraph, reflecting on why government bureaucracies seem obsessed with hoarding every last snippet of information about every individual: Watford Borough Council’s decision to ban parents from the playground in case they are paedophiles are another case of the Bully State gone mad. We’ve seen it in the past week with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (whose .gov web address shows it to be anything but independent), telling piano teachers and others that they ought to get CRB checks, or parents might ask why not. So now we are living in a Britain where all adults are presumed to be paedophiles unless they can prove themselves otherwise. It’s the precautionary principle gone mad. If you can’t prove something safe, you have to treat it as dangerous. That thinking also gave us the EU’s Reach directive, which prescribed in-depth tests on “hazardous chemicals” – such as salt […]

From paedophilia to speeding, bureaucrats need a sense of proportion ...

Jason Groves and Ian Drury write in the Daily Mail: The DNA of innocent people could be stored for six years despite a court ruling that it is illegal. Leaked emails reveal that Home Secretary Alan Johnson plans to defy the European Court of Human Rights by allowing police to keep swabs and fingerprints of those who are arrested but never convicted. Even children cleared of any wrongdoing would have their DNA kept on a Government database for at least three years. The emails also show that Mr Johnson is trying to recruit relatives of high-profile murder victims to help with the ‘media handling’ of the policy. Meanwhile, the Alan Travis, writing in The Guardian, reports that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is pressing the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to withdraw guidance to chief constables to carry on collecting DNA profiles of innocent people: The EHRC […]

DNA of innocents will be kept on database for six ...

Philip Johnston writes in The Daily Telegraph about the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, arguing that it reflects an official mindset that everyone is a potential criminal: Child protection has become a vast, self-perpetuating industry whose very existence depends upon maintaining the fiction that all adults are potentially harmful to children. Perversely, even though most abusers are known to the abused, and children are most at risk from relatives or their friends, the new ISA scheme excludes family or private arrangements. What sort of society is it where adults suspect other adults, and children are taught to suspect anyone other than their parents, who are often the people who cause them greatest harm? Adults who volunteer their time to coach children in sports, or run Scout and Guide organisations, or adventure outings are being put off doing so in their thousands. There are stories of people who have a conviction from […]

‘Child protection’ makes criminals of us all

Jack Doyle writes in The Scotsman: A TOTAL of 28 million people – more than half the adult population of the UK – would need to sign up for an ID card in order to cover the costs of the scheme, it was revealed yesterday. Ministers, including Home Secretary Alan Johnson, have said scrapping the scheme would save nothing because it would effectively be self-financing. But figures released by the Conservatives revealed the estimate was based on huge levels of take-up over ten years. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said the prediction showed Mr Johnson was “utterly deluded”.

ID card plan ‘needs 28m people to sign up to ...

Paul Lewis and Rob Evans write in the Guardian about police use of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database to track vehicles seen at public protests: Another protester, an IT manager who only wants to be known as John for fear of police retribution, said he was stopped more than 25 times in two and half years after a “protester” marker was placed against his Mercedes SUV. He said police were giving him inconsistent explanations for the stops. “I heard every excuse under the sun: ‘We’ve heard reports of suspicious vehicles in the area’ or ‘We’re keeping an eye on high value vehicles moving through the area,'” he said. “One or two officers would be a bit more honest and say: ‘Your number plate has flagged up on our system, we don’t know why.’ This was happening all over the country.” He finally decided to complain after a police […]

Activists repeatedly stopped and searched as police officers ‘mark’ cars

Simon Walters, writing in the Mail on Sunday, reports tensions within the cabinet over the ID cards scheme: Home Secretary Alan Johnson was accused yesterday of undermining Gordon Brown as the Labour leadership was hit by a fresh bout of infighting. Mr Brown’s allies say relations with Mr Johnson have been damaged after disagreements over identity cards and 24-hour drinking. And tensions have been further inflamed by claims from Labour whips that MPs close to Mr Johnson, one of the favourites to succeed Mr Brown, have taken soundings to see if he has enough support to challenge for the leadership.

Alan Johnson in row with Brown over ID cards as ...

John Higginson writes on the front page of Metro: One million people have been added to the DNA database in the past two years but it is helping to solve fewer crimes, new figures show. There are now almost 5 million profiles on the database, up 500,000 on a year ago and 1 million since 2007. However, the number of police detections fell by a fifth to 64,949 from 81,457 between 2004/5 and 2006/7. Costs of running the system have also more than doubled to more than £4million in a year. Isabella Sankey, policy director at civil rights group Liberty, said: ‘Everyone knows that such a massive DNA database violates human rights to personal privacy and race equality but this report shows what bad value for money it is as well.’

5m DNA records but less success in fighting crime

Charles Clarke writes on the Guardian Comment is Free web site about his vision for a Labour Fourth term, including an extended section headed “Identity databases”: The controversy about identity cards has been politically potent. However, the debate has been beset by misleading and even duplicitous arguments. The truth is that technological change means that massive identity databases already exist. An immense range of data about almost everyone has been collected by a range of public and private organisations. This includes information on banking, pensions and benefits, health, travel and employment records, and of course the records held by the police and security organisations. The operation of these databases determines some pretty fundamental practical questions about the ways in which we live. There is an understandable public demand to establish more databases to strengthen protection, for example against sex attacks on children. Moreover, the ability to share data remains an […]

Labour can unify liberty and security

Mark Johnson writes in The Guardian about the public reaction to the new Independent Safeguarding Authority: As an author who speaks in schools, and sometimes gives lifts to other people’s children, I should be outraged. But I’m just confused. I’ve got the sort of criminal record that means the VBS will certainly vet and bar me. Yet it’s my criminal record that makes me particularly qualified to work with young offenders. It’s my years of drug addiction that give me a special understanding of addicts. It’s the changes I’ve made in my life that offenders and addicts want to hear about. A prison governor told me I can have more effect on his inmates in 30 minutes than he can in three years. Like so many other ex-offenders who have come back into society, I have a passion for helping those I understand best. I believe our work can directly […]

Middle-class voices hush up a criminal waste of resources

Henry Porter writes on the Guardian Comment is Free web site: The government’s climbdown on proposals that the police should keep innocent people’s DNA for between six and 12 years should not be mistaken for a change of heart, nor should we celebrate this as a victory for article 8, the right to privacy, of the Human Rights Act. This is simply a retreat in the face of a predicted defeat in the Lords: it is clear that the Home Office will come back with fresh proposals in yet another Labour criminal justice bill in the new parliamentary session, which the Human Rights Act will be equally powerless to prevent. So I am afraid the triumphant notes being sounded by human rights campaigners are premature. If there was a genuine change in government thinking after the Marper case was adjudicated at the European court of human rights (ECHR) – which […]

This is no innocent U-turn on DNA

Simon Johnson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, reports a speech by Scotland’s First Minister attacking Labour and Conservative public spending plans: “The only thing they disagree on is the timing of starting the cuts. The scale of the cuts is just the same and both have Scotland in their sights.” He said the Government need only cancel future schemes, such as replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent and ID cards, to protect public spending. Mr Salmond said this would build 50 new Forth road crossings or fund the Scottish NHS for a decade.

Alex Salmond attacks ‘depressing’ cutbacks to public spending

Simon Donohue writes in the Manchester Evening News: Only 2,000 people have signed up to find out more about the ID cards trial in Greater Manchester. The £30 voluntary scheme will be rolled out across the region by the end of the year as a trial for the national card. Anyone living in Greater Manchester – plus Manchester Airport workers – is eligible to get a card but the Home Office insists it’s not surprised by the level of interest so far. Nationally, 10,000 people have registered with the website to get an application form – just 2,000 in the north west. James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, told the M.E.N: “I don’t think that 10,000 people is very low when you think that we haven’t really marketed the scheme yet. “People are a bit confused about whether this is really going to happen so we […]

Only 2,000 volunteer for ID card

Joe Fay writes in The Register: The government is so sure that the UK public can’t wait to get their hands on ID cards that it is spending next to nothing to promote the scheme. Successive Home Secretaries have insisted that the UK populace is thoroughly convinced of the case for ID cards, and is just waiting to rush out and insert themselves on the mega ID database as soon as it’s up and running. That’s despite research from NO2ID that suggests public support for the scheme is at an all time low, with 60 per cent of respondents to its polls saying the scheme is a “bad idea”. This compares to 43 per cent having doubts back in 2005. Perhaps this might have something to do with the promotion budget for the scheme, which to date barely amounts to a hill of beans, at least in government terms. Phil […] backs ID scheme with peanuts promo spend

Directgov chief technology officer David Matthewman has been speaking about online authentication. Tom Espiner reports on the ZDNet web site: Matthewman said not only do citizens need to be able to trust the government website they are visiting, but the government needs a reliable way of establishing the identity of the person when online. “Creating a single sign-on is quite straightforward, but how do I trust the website?” said Matthewman. “I got 17 pieces of spam this morning telling me to logon to HMRC and give my tax details.” Matthewman said any key or token would have to be interoperable, and may be made available to businesses. “We believe there is scope for an identity utility that might be leveraged by the private sector,” said Matthewman. “We’d like to hear ideas about how you would exploit the opportunity.” Matthewman told ZDNet UK that ID cards would be a part of […]

iPhones could be used for citizen ID

The Independent reports: Phil Woolas, the Immigration minister, faced ridicule last night after announcing that his own civil servants would be the first Britons to be issued with identity cards. He told MPs that applications for the £30 cards could be made by UK nationals from next Tuesday. Mr Woolas added: “This will apply to people working in the Home Office, the passport service and elsewhere, who are engaged on work relating to the issue of identity cards.” The written ministerial statement in question can be found here.

Civil servants first Britons to get ID cards