YOUR DNA COULD BE SOLD
BY DOMINIC BASCOMBE
Fears that black men at risk from firms seeking DNA for ˜criminality gene' test
Research companies keen to prove that black men possess a ˜criminality gene' that predisposes them to commit crime, are seeking to access the police national DNA database, The Voice can exclusively reveal.
The national DNA database is run by the Forensic Science Service, a UK government owned body.
Last week, new figures from the Home Office revealed that DNA samples stored on the police national DNA database had passed the three million mark.
Nearly 40 percent of black men have their DNA stored on the database, compared to 13 percent of Asian men, and just nine percent of white men.
Powers introduced in April 2004 enable the police to take and retain a DNA sample and fingerprints from persons arrested for a recordable offence, even if they are not charged.
According to government figures, 139,463 people are on the DNA database who have not been charged or cautioned with an offence.
The discrepancy in figures among the ethnicities has raised concerns on the disproportionate use of new police powers to retain DNA samples.
A report by the House of Commons science and technology committee also reveals that the forensic science service has received a number of requests to access the stored information.
Campaign group Genewatch told The Voice that they are presently awaiting a Freedom of Information request on who has sought to purchase the information.
Becky Price, a researcher at Genewatch explained, "A concern we have is the access that private companies have to that data. The forensic science service can give out access to companies and research institutions. There is a board that oversees the database that will see the requests and make the final decision. But we know that a number of requests have been granted in the last couple of years."
Because the database contains disproportionate details on black men, Genewatch believes that any research using that information would be skewered against black men.
"We believe that that information is being used by people researching and looking at whether there is a criminality gene. Our concern is that generally over the last five or ten years is that we've been getting reports of people claiming to find the gene for this or that and we are quite dubious about statistics in that research.
"There's a 70 per cent chance of matching a gene with a character trait. That's not very strong to build a criminal justice policy around because it becomes self-reinforcing."
She continued, "Black people are much more likely to be arrested, therefore have their DNA on the database. If it is useful in solving crime, and that is a big ˜if', then more of the crime that is committed by black men will be solved than the crime being committed by white middle aged women who are less represented on the database. "
George Rhoden, head of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, added: "It is totally disproportionate and is highlighting an interpretation that black men commit more crimes than white guys. We need a high-level investigation into how it is being recorded, what type of persons are on record, how their DNA is taken, and what criteria is being used."
A Home Office spokesman said: "Information cannot be sold. It may only be made available to relevant law enforcement authorities."
Story from Voice-Online
Copyright © GV Media Group Ltd 2006. All rights reserved.