Friday, December 5, 2008

UK DNA Database Shot Down by EU

CNN reports on the EU ruling that prohibits the police in England from keeping DNA samples of suspected persons.

The British police practice of keeping DNA records of anyone they arrest is a human rights violation, The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously Thursday.
I wondered how this fits into our recent discussions about tyranny coming to the UK. Some of our commenters feel that the draconian gun laws in the UK are a prelude to out and out tyranny. The fact that the police had been building a database of DNA samples, not only of convicted and proven miscreants, but of innocent people exonerated of any guilt, seems to add credence to the theory. Is tyranny coming to the UK?

Like many of our discussions, I think there's a big gray area in this one. How much privacy are citizens entitled to? How much of that would they be willing to give up for increased security? Video surveillance is an example. It's become commonplace, especially in London they say, and we accept it as doing more harm than good. Or, do you oppose the video cameras? Do you oppose DNA databases for criminals? They have a right to privacy too, don't they?

I'm in agreement with the Labour Home site, which says the following about the EU ruling:

In fact it was the unanimous decision of a court of seventeen judges!

This decision is excellent news.

What's your take on it?


  1. "Is tyranny coming to the UK?"

    Personally I see it as a natural state of things...All lakes are filling themselves in to bogs, then feilds, all mountains are being ground down, while fault lines are being pressed up to Mountains.

    Tyranny is ALWAYS coming, it just a question of "What Rate"

    Thankfully Liberty is also always fighting too. Some places the two keep each other in check, other places tyranny crushes Liberty into the history books, other places Liberty descends into Anarchy.

    I would certainly say that Liberty has little strength in the UK, and the seeds of Tyranny are brewing...still we ARE talking about the same people who allowed Mahatma Gandhi to become a hero, rather than his counterparts in other nations who are forgotten.

    (Seriously, you don't think there were people who tried what Gandhi did in Cambodia, or Burma, or the countless genocides in Africa?)

    Maybe the Brits won't have the stones to crush their people like other nations have. That would be better for the people of Brittan.

  2. "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security" - Benjamin Franklin.

    And with governments, there are very few of any liberties being given up only temporarily. The UK provides a great point.

    I am a quality engineer by profession, so one of the first questions I ask becomes "Is it effective?"

    Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

    Despite spending £200 million over ten years installing and maintaining 10,000 CCTV cameras across the capital, just one in five crimes get solved, according to figures obtained by the London Assembly's Liberal Democrats.

    The party said the statistics show that more CCTV cameras don't necessarily lead to a better crime clear-up rate.

    Liberal Democrat policing spokesperson Dee Doocey said: "Across London, a mere one in five crimes get solved and boroughs with thousands of CCTV cameras are no better at doing so than those which have a few dozen."

    Just two links out of thousands, literally thousands of links on a quick search.

    So, it doesn't appear to be effective, is what effectiveness it does have worth the invasion of privacy, worth having citizens movements monitored?

    I'll leave that question for a moment and turn to the tyranny aspect with this link:

    The CCTV system has gone up in sites across Portsmouth and it will reportedly help predict crimes before they actually happen.

    The city's council has set up the network of "intelligent" cameras that can alert an operator to suspicious behaviour.

    The system is able to spot "unusual" incidents like somebody loitering or a vehicle travelling too fast.

    It then alerts CCTV operators so they in turn can assess the situation and decide what action - if any - needs to be taken.

    The system is being set up to watch quiet areas like car parks, stairwells or corridors in buildings and streets at night-time.

    This is to allow an operator to monitor more cameras without having to watch each screen simultaneously.

    "Although we are a long way off Minority Report, it is a step closer," said camera maker Smart CCTV's Nick Hewitson.
    It is able to alert the operator to something that might be interesting such as a guy hanging around or somebody running.

    "But what it cannot do is say whether that guy is waiting for his girlfriend or about to commit a crime.

    "That is for the operator to make a subjective human decision on and make an appropriate response.

    "The software is able to filter out all the boring information and gives the security operator alerts on things that might be interesting."

    The system, which has been running in several US cities, including New York, Washington and Chicago, is being given to Portsmouth for free.

    :: Hollywood actor Tom Cruise starred in the Minority Report movie, in which psychics predict crimes so people can be arrested before they commit an offence.

    Sorry, but I think that people should be allowed to "linger" or have suspicious behavior such as waiting around for a girlfriend without having to answer to the police department.

    I am reading a book called Liberal Fascism, it really is interesting. It shows the trend in America and more so in the UK. Tyranny won't come in the middle of the night, it will come over the national news as more laws passed for our own good. It is already happening in both countries.

    I'm not sure how much you keep up with news of cities in America Mike, but check out how many have smoking bans. Smoking bans not just in public government buildings but in restaurants, bars, outdoor parks. Some cities are banning smoking in your own home if it is attached (condo, townhome, etc) to others because it might "seep" through and bother someone.
    Trans-fat bans, spanking bans, seat belt laws...the list is pretty much endless.

    Laws being passed to protect us from ourselves, isn't that what is happening with the DNA database and CCTV?

  3. How much privacy are citizens entitled to? How much of that would they be willing to give up for increased security?

    good questions. to answer the first one, let's start out at "all of it", and only budge from that point if we have really good reason to.

    as for the second one, i regret to say most people are willing to give up all their privacy for the mere impression of security; whether they get any of its substance is, to far too many, irrelevant.

    trading civil rights for something substantial that's either necessary or at least more useful still than what we traded for it, that's one thing, but it's much too easy to frighten and panic people into handing over their birthrights for a handful of magic beans that sprout into nothing but poisonous weeds. too much surveillance is of that nature.

    this is one area of policy where good old-fashioned small-government conservatives can actually serve a useful purpose. they can act as a brake on changes that would strip away privacy --- and with it, civil rights --- in return for nothing of real value. while i myself am a staunch proponent of social change, i'd be a fool to forget that change can sometimes be for the worse, too; a moderating political influence to slow down change can sometimes be necessary.

    it's too bad that principled, old-fashioned conservatives are so scarce on the ground these days. what you usually see instead are wannabe theocrats and imperial-government neocons, neither of which tend to conserve much of anything.

    Do you oppose DNA databases for criminals? They have a right to privacy too, don't they?

    not all criminals are alike. i actually would oppose DNA databases for people who've committed crimes i see as not very harmful, as well as people not likely to reoffend.

    i'd be happier if the DNA samples in any such database had enforced destroy-by dates, with retention times dependent on what manner of criminal they'd been taken from. i'd be happier still if that sample destruction program could be publically audited, to see it really was working.

    Is tyranny coming to the UK?

    no society lasts forever. sooner or later, the patch of ground we now call the UK will succumb to tyranny, although it might take a few centuries for all we know. however, just because it might indeed take centuries is no reason for us to carelessly make it easier for wannabe tyrants today. it'll take more time if we have the sense and prudence to stay vigilant and work against it.

  4. Mike,

    If a people can't be trusted by their government and that government makes laws based on that lack of trust, isn't that tyranny?

    Even if "it is for the people's own good"?

    Fire extinguishers could be removed from communal areas in flats throughout the country because they are a safety hazard, it has emerged.

    The life-saving devices encourage untrained people to fight a fire rather than leave the building, risk assessors in Bournemouth decided.

    There are fears that their recommendation, which has seen the extinguishers ripped out of several private, high-rise flats in the town, could set a national precedent.

    Under the Fire Safety Order of 2005, fire assessments must be carried out to 'eliminate or reduce risk as is reasonably practical'.

    Nanny state government, they don't trust the people with firearms, now they don't trust them with fire they won't trust the people to walk without being hurt.
    Brick Lane has been branded an accident blackspot - for clumsy mobile phone users who crash into lamp posts while texting.

    A survey found the Hoxton street is Britain's worst thoroughfare for "walk-and-text" injury victims.

    Across London, it is claimed there were more than 68,000 such accidents last year, with victims' injuries ranging from minor bruises to fractured skulls.

    The blame was placed on the large amount of street furniture such as lamp posts and bins and a growing number of pedestrians attracted by the area's curry houses and bars.

    Now Brick Lane has been made the country's first "Safe Text" street, with brightly coloured padding, similar to that used on rugby posts, placed on lamp posts to test if it helps protect dozy mobile users.

    If the trial is successful, the idea could be rolled out to other London blackspots, including Charing Cross Road, Old Bond Street, Oxford Street and Church Street, Stoke Newington.

  5. Oh NO, Spambots???

    I hope this doesn't become a constant so we'll need to word varification back : (

  6. That's the first spam I've seen since moving the blog over to blogspot.

    Bob, I know there's no limit to the articles critical of the cameras, and many with stats to back up their complaints. But, I gotta use my famous common sense on this one just like I try to do with guns.

    If I were a criminal, would I do my crime where there are cameras everywhere? Of course not. So there must be a deterrent factor. Plus, I can't believe the English cops are so lame they don't benefit during investigations by using the video.

    I suspect the ones writing all those articles have an obvious agenda just like the ones producing many of the statistics you come up with about guns. That's why my friend, you gotta take it all with a grain of salt.

  7. If I were a criminal, would I do my crime where there are cameras everywhere?

    yes, you would. as evidenced by the fact that lots of crimes are still committed in London, and in U.S. housing projects where there are cameras everywhere.

    and yet, the video evidence of such crimes being committed doesn't seem to improve crime resolution or arrest rates much --- so long as that remains the case, what exactly do criminals have to worry about?

    if universal surveillance was really a good crime-fighting tool, we would expect to see two things happen in sequence: first, arrest and conviction rates would increase markedly, with video evidence playing a key role in trials; and secondly, crime would go down (as criminals were in jail) and move away from the area under surveillance (as the remaining criminals got smarter). of all the areas that have bought cameras to cover themselves, can you show me any where this pattern has played out?

  8. Mike,

    You said:
    If I were a criminal, would I do my crime where there are cameras everywhere? Of course not. So there must be a deterrent factor. Plus, I can't believe the English cops are so lame they don't benefit during investigations by using the video

    Let's change it a little bit and use my common sense:

    "If I were a criminal, would I do my crime where there are firearms everywhere? Of course not. So there must be a deterrent factor. Plus, I can't believe the English cops are so lame they don't benefit during investigations by people using firearms to protect themselves"

    Cameras do no, can not stop a crime in progress, firearms carried by law abiding citizens can. So which does it make sense to have more of, cameras or firearms?

    So, do crooks use common sense, yes but do they stop committing crimes, NO - Witness San Franscisco:
    San Francisco's 68 controversial anti-crime cameras haven't deterred criminals from committing assaults, sex offenses or robberies - and they've only moved homicides down the block, according to a new report from UC Berkeley.

    Researchers found that nonviolent thefts dropped by 22 percent within 100 feet of the cameras, but the devices had no effect on burglaries or car theft. And they've had no effect on violent crime.

    Problem is, Mike, you are trying to apply logic and common sense to criminals that aren't known for either.

  9. as the old saying goes, if they were smart, they wouldn't be criminals.

    if criminals fear something, it's being caught. certainly not being seen committing crimes; some of the worst of them wear that as a badge of honor --- consider gang members. being seen only matters to them if it increases their risk of being held accountable by a justice system that actually works. but if they really expect to be caught, they don't commit the crime --- at least not that crime, not right then and there.

    cameras might increase the chance of a criminal being seen. but that's not the same thing as being caught, and criminals know it.

  10. I think some criminals are smart. And I think they get smarter in prison. If I were one of them, I'd be deterred by video cameras. And, I must admit, I'd be deterred by the thought that the local civilians may very well be armed. (There, I've said it Bob.)

  11. Mike,

    If criminals would be deterred by video cameras, why are convenience stores still being robbed on a daily basis?

    The news carries the video of the robberies almost as soon as the next day so it is not like the crooks don't know they are on tape.

    England, San Francisco, department stores, convenience stores, etc all show that the risk of being on video does not equal the reward of committing the crime.

    Probably for a couple of reasons:
    First, unless the image capture is very close, most videos doesn't have the resolution needed for identification.
    Second, as we've talked about before, and what makes the OJ case stand our, most convictions don't carry a strong enough sentence. I think that is what makes an armed citizenry effective.

    The prospect of running into armed citizens and being in a legal system that supports those citizens instead of charging them with a crime, that does get through to a crook.

    Here in Texas there have been several high profile cases in the past couple of years.....not one of them resulted in the citizen going to jail. Several criminals dead and no citizen in jail really changes the risk/reward equation then throw in "Castle Doctrine" law and even the relatives don't stand a chance of getting rich pushes the reward side down even farther.

    If you think the DNA database is a good idea, how about showing where any such database has been very useful? Not were a known criminal has been arrested but where the taking of a DNA sample from a "otherwise law abiding citizen" has been arrested and convicted of a crime because of a DNA sample taken.

    Here in America, there are several firearm related examples of complete failures of these type.
    ALBANY -- New York's 7-year-old database of handgun "fingerprints" has yet to lead to a criminal prosecution and questions linger about its effectiveness. Still, State Police remain committed to the database, saying more time and a long-awaited link to a federal ballistics database could bring success.

    Why keep up with classic examples of the definition of insanity, gun control, and why not go with things that have been proven successful, allowing citizens to carry firearms?