Pros and cons of a compulsory DNA database

LAST UPDATED AT 01:00 ON Fri 5 Sep 2008

ARGUMENTS FOR:

  • A DNA database covering the whole population and every visitor to the UK, as advocated by Lord Justice Sedley, would save massive amounts of police time and help clear up crimes faster.
  • Those who do nothing wrong have nothing to fear and should be reassured.
  • The current system - the DNA of all those arrested for recordable offences, guilty or not, is retained - is selective and inefficient.
  • Current practice is unfair: ethnic minorities and young people are over-represented, creating resentment and anti-police feeling. Two-in-five black men have their DNA on record, as against fewer than one-in-ten whites.
  • The world has changed: international mobility means that potential terrorists can come and go, often on false papers.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:

  • It would be the ultimate step on the road to a 'Big Brother' state: Britain would become 'a nation of suspects'.
  • Whatever the utility of DNA samples, there is something inherently disturbing about entering every baby on a database at birth.
  • A national DNA bank would be massively expensive and bureaucratic.
  • It would be damaging to the image of the UK - 'Welcome to Britain: now provide a mouth swab'.
  • DNA information could be abused by corrupt police and others illegally passing information to unauthorised people.

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