‘The majority should welcome it with open arms as it will definitely prevent crime and detect more who commit it’
‘We must weigh the positive against the negative outcomes of a process which limits our civil liberties’
THE development of scientific and forensic techniques have revolutionised crime investigation in this country.
Where in the past, thousands of hours had to be expended to try and identify the perpetrator of a crime, today this can be achieved within hours if the DNA of a suspect is found on the body of a victim or at the scene of a crime.
Although the strict rules of evidence apply to the capture and use of DNA and of course there must be no explainable reason for it to be where it is found, this is virtually a cast iron way in which criminals can be brought to justice.
A case in point was the recent conviction of Steve Wright in Suffolk for the murder of five young women. The police admitted they had few clues to the identity of their killer until he was identified by DNA.
In his case it had been taken some years ago when he was convicted of the theft of a relatively small amount of money from his employer. This case and others raise the issue of collection of DNA from a wider section of the public than is currently possible.
There is no doubt in my mind that was there to be a complete data base of the whole community more crimes would be solved than at the moment. Such a provision may also have the effect of reducing the number of crimes as certainty of detection acts as a powerful deterrent.
This could easily be achieved by taking samples of every child born and anyone who enters this country as an immigrant. Were the practice to be extended world wide it would be even better.
At the moment samples are only taken by the authorities in limited circumstances. Moreover, over the years the police have had to fight to increase their number and the conditions under which they may retain them.
I can understand those who are concerned about the ever increasing intervention and control by the state, indeed I have spoken out against this on many occasions. However I do believe this is justified in the specific case of DNA.
In all things we must weigh the positive against the negative outcomes of a process which limits our civil liberties. I accept that were there to be a universal DNA data base the state may use it for purposes other than crime prevention and detection, but is that such a bad thing?
In the last decade we have moved so far in protecting the rights of the individual that the rest of us have had to suffer. If you have nothing to hide there is no reason to fear such a provision. Indeed the majority should welcome it with open arms as it will definitely prevent crime and detect more of those who commit it. Moreover, if it stops people abusing our heath and educational system, scroungers claiming money they are not entitled to and individuals getting jobs they are not qualified for then so much the better.
We must decide what type of society we wish to live in. The powers that be were right to outlaw the excessive power of the authorities which oppressed the rights of individuals.
The brutality associated with crime detection in the 60s was clearly wrong – although effective. In those days it was perceived that the end justified the means.
The police can no longer use trickery, subterfuge, violence or the threat of violence in questioning a prisoner. You would be extremely surprised at the way contemporary interviews are undertaken. Due to the constraints on an officer they are more akin to a fireside chat than an interrogation. This being the case it is no surprise the conviction rate is so low. However I do not blame the calibre of the professionals concerned. I blame the system under which they operate.
If we wish to retain some control over those elements within our society who commit crime we must give the police, and other law and order agencies, the tools to do their job. DNA is the most powerful of these and we should not shirk our responsibility however loud the civil libertarians may shout.
Now the gendarmes have changed!
I DON’T know about you but I must confess I feel less constrained driving on holiday than I do here.
I suspect part of this is due to there being less traffic about and a belief that the police abroad are less interested in motoring offences than they are here.
On my two recent visits to our home in France, however, my misconception has been firmly countered.
On both occasions I saw a great deal of police activity. It included waiting at junctions to fine those who disobeyed stop signs, setting up mobile radar checks and undertaking random alcohol tests. These were not aimed at tourists, as is sometimes claimed. They were targeted at the indigenous population.
I was breathtested by the gendarmes who were stopping every vehicle entering a roundabout early one evening. Thankfully I was less than a quarter of their limit, having had one cocktail prior to my meal. The whole process took less than one minute and they were quite polite.
However it was a very sobering experience and one I pass on as a warning for the next time you drive abroad.
Be careful and drive safely.