Police ‘exaggerated’ Freedom Bill dangers

Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, writes in Public Servant magazine about ACPO’s stance on the DNA database:

In March, the Commons committee scrutinising the bill heard its first evidence from expert witnesses, including the Association of Chief Police Officers and GeneWatch UK.

The Times reports of chief constable Sims’ claim that 1,000 crimes a year would not be solved as a result of the bill, but it does not report the detailed examination of these claims by the committee.

GeneWatch disputes the police figures, which are exaggerated because they are based on a false assumption that innocent people are as likely to commit future offences as people convicted of serious or multiple offences: in fact about eight out of ten offences are committed by a small number of repeat offenders. As chief constable Sims made clear in evidence, they are also estimates of database matches not convictions. Only about a quarter of DNA matches lead to convictions.

In contrast, our analysis suggests that perhaps as few as a dozen crimes a year are likely to have delayed or lost convictions as a result of the new law. These are not murders and rapes but volume crimes such as thefts and burglaries. Less than one per cent of crimes involving a DNA match are rapes and most rapes involve disputes about consent that cannot be resolved using DNA. Most of the small number of volume crime convictions affected by the bill would be delayed not lost because the DNA match would be made later if someone who is taken off the database is later rearrested. Their DNA would then be taken again and rechecked against all past crime scene DNA profiles stored on the database.