Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Top U.K. Judge Calls for Universal DNA Database

Judge calls for UK DNA database
BBC | November 24 2004

Everyone who lives in Britain should have their DNA stored on a national database, a top judge has said.

Lord Justice Sedley is well known for his support of human rights, including upholding a ruling over the government denying rights to asylum seekers.

The law lord said the potential gain from a national base was considerable.

"The risks, so long as they are confronted, are controllable," he said during a Leicester University Law School lecture.

Lord Justice Sedley said he made no case for or against the introduction of compulsory identity cards.

"But a society that feels able, as ours does, to give serious consideration to such a step, ought not to turn its face away from the case for a universal DNA register."

He said that DNA analysis had transformed the process, not only of detection work by police, but proof in court.

The judge added: "What is particularly welcome is that it is as potent in eliminating those who are wrongly suspected or accused as it is in tracking down the guilty."

He was giving the law facility's annual lecture to a 150-strong audience of law lecturers, students and prominent citizens from Leicester.

Endless uses

Human rights group Liberty has already condemned the idea as a 'frightening scenario'.

A spokesman said recently: "Once a national data base is set up there will be endless other uses for it."

DNA testing was first used to catch a criminal in 1987.

Scotland Yard used mass testing of 4,000 men to arrest Colin Pitchfork, a 25-year-old baker in the sexual assaults and strangulations of two 15-year-old girls in Narborough, Leicestershire.

DNA was developed as an identification technique by British scientist Alex Jeffries at the University of Leicester.

In the US, FBI has had a national DNA database since October 1998, which allows police agencies to compare their evidence with convicted offenders in 42 states. The database has so far assisted with more than 4,900 criminal investigations.