Kiwi Polemicist

December 4, 2008

UK keeps DNA samples from all arrestees, NZ headed the same way

This week’s theme is DNA: in my earlier post I wrote about the New Zealand government’s genetic database in the form of blood samples taken from 2.1 million citizens, and what you can do to win a small victory against Big Brother.

Now the BBC is reporting that two men are challenging the law that enables the United Kingdom police to take – and keep – a DNA sample from everyone who has been arrested in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, even if they are innocent. That’s right, if you’re innocent and you get arrested the state will take a DNA sample from you by force and keep it indefinitely. The phrase “unreasonable search and seizure” is not adequate for describing this injustice.

The UK DNA database has about 4,500,000 samples (that’s about 7% of the population), of which about 900,000 or 20% are from innocent people. Also included is about 64,000 samples from Welsh youths aged 10 to 17.

What is the government’s response when people object to this totalitarian brutality? According to the BBC the “government claims the DNA profile from people who are not convicted may sometimes be linked to later offences, so storing the details on the database is a proportionate response to tackling crime”. Translation: we don’t give a stuff about your civil liberties, and crime is our excuse for violating them.

New Zealand is heading the same way. In a speech given to the Police Association last year last year, John Key said

We’re also keen to ensure your toolkit makes the most of modern crime-solving technology.

DNA is one such technology. It is the 21st century fingerprint [no it’s not, it’s a stolen body part]. It’s time to increase the range of situations in which we use it.

National’s rationale for this is simple: if we catch and punish criminals earlier, we prevent them from creating more victims. [there’s his excuse for totalitarianism]

DNA profiling is a highly effective tool for identifying and catching criminals . On the flipside, it is also an invaluable tool for exonerating the innocent. [both of these statements are highly debatable]

Currently, DNA samples can be taken only with a suspect’s consent [yes, the police can be very persuasive], or where people are suspected of an offence punishable by more than seven years imprisonment.

That requirement precludes DNA samples being taken from those suspected of a wide ranges of significant offences, such as assault with a weapon. And it requires police officers to go through the complex process of applying to the High Court for leave to take a DNA sample where consent is not obtained.

National thinks DNA samples should be taken in a wider range of circumstances.

So, we will require DNA samples to be taken from all those arrested for offences punishable by a term of imprisonment.

As is the case with fingerprints and photos, we would require DNA records to be destroyed where charges are dropped or where suspects are found not guilty. [emphasis added]

Some very minor offences can get you free board and keep in prison, e.g. carrying a knife or seeking a donation by false pretence are good for 3 months*. There are plenty of people who visit churches and spin a story in an attempt to gain money: that is seeking a donation by false pretence and John Key wants the state to permanently keep a DNA sample taken from such a person.

I believe that the state has no right to steal a body part from me at any time, but even if you don’t share that view I think you’ll agree that the taking of a DNA sample is disproportionate to the offence of obtaining $20 by deceit.

How long before the New Zealand government defends the keeping of DNA samples taken from all arrestees by saying “the DNA profile from people who are not convicted may sometimes be linked to later offences, so storing the details on the database is a proportionate response to tackling crime”?

There is an increasing trend of governments taking DNA samples, e.g. the USA takes DNA samples from approximately 2,895,000 military personnel and boots out any who refuse to comply.

Why do governments want DNA samples? Quite simply, information is power. To put it another way, the government cannot control those people that it cannot identify. I also believe that power is intoxicating, and that our slave masters will exercise their power just to get their jollies.

As I said in my earlier post

[T]rusting the state to properly use personal information is like putting a dog and a steak in a closed room and expecting to find the steak untouched the next day.

You may say that it’s ok for the state to keep DNA information taken from criminals, but when was the last time you saw a dog take a wee bite from a steak then walk away and leave the rest untouched?


*Summary Offences Act s13A and 15



  1. Interesting post, I see the sense in keeping DNA from earlier times as someone who does little things proportionately may well go on to further crime.

    The problem is who will have access to the info and will the state always be benign?

    case in point we had a government that was going down the path to totalitarianism with the Labour/Greens and it is populated by their supporters, so I see your point.

    Then there is the religion of global warming and it’s increasingly aggressive proponants worldwide, denying funding and tarnishing the careers of those scientists who disagree with them.

    Oh and mustn’t forget the scientists who subscribe to Intelligent design who have been attacked through their careers.

    Better to be safe than sorry.
    Yes, if convicted then DNA kept but if not then it must be destroyed.

    Comment by MikeNZ — December 10, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  2. MikeNZ: the question is not “will the state always be benign?”. Rather, the question is “Will the state ever be benign?”. The answer is, “No, the state will always be the enemy”.

    Why will the state always be the enemy? Because humans love power (a form of pride) and the state has a monopoly of force/power over a territory.


    Comment by kiwipolemicist — December 10, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

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