Thursday, 31 December 2009

Defending The Indefensible

As we enter a New Year, this authoritarian government still persists in defending the indefensible and the police's retention of innocent people's DNA files. Next year, in their last blast at our freedoms after 13 years spent chipping away at them with their various new laws and innovations, they are proposing yet another new law, the Crime and Security Bill. This, they tell us, will balance the public's concerns on the issue with the operational needs of the police.

The operational needs of the police? How are the details of innocent people any concern of the police, or are we now guilty until proven innocent?

This is where this government has got it all wrong. The same government that sacks an adviser for telling them what they don't want to hear with regard to drugs seems intent upon acting on every plea for new powers from the police and security services. The job of government is to balance the requirements of those who seek to protect us with our hard won and too easily lost freedoms and rights. The police and security services naturally want more and more powers. But in a free society they should not always get what they want just because it makes their jobs easier.

Damian Green, the Conservative MP who was arrested last year over leaked information from the Home Office, has had his DNA details destroyed by an embarrassed Metropolitan Police force. The same would almost certainly not be true of the rest of us. It should be. The police do not have the right to retain personal information about us without our consent unless we have been convicted of a crime. Indeed there is some evidence that they are actively going out and arresting people solely to get their DNA to help them with their inquiries. There is no operational need for them to retain this. Convenience and the desire to catalogue us all is not the same as an operational requirement. Come election time this issue will be one I shall want to raise with anyone asking for my vote.

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