Black Community leaders led by Black Mental Health UK have strongly condemned the coalition government’s u-turn on the deletion of innocent DNA.
In a letter to a committee of MPs, Home Office Minister James Brokenshire MP, confirmed that the DNA profiles of those arrested but not charged or convicted of any crime will be retained by the forensic science laboratories in an anonymised form. The minister admitted that this leaves open the possibility of connecting these profiles with people’s names.
This decision to renege on the commitment to delete the profiles of over 1 million innocent people will have a devastating impact on the UK’s African Caribbean communities, Black Mental Health UK warned.
Home Office figures show that 37% of black men and 77% of young black men, aged between 15 and 34 are estimated to be on the National DNA Database, even though this group does not have higher offending rates than their white counterparts.
Pointing to the damage to community relations that the database has already caused, Black Mental Health UK warned that this decision will mean that the whole of the UK’s African Caribbean community will be criminalised by the system.
“The Home Office Minister’s decision is a betrayal of the commitment he made when he spoke directly to our communities at a BMH UK parliamentary reception back in 2010,” said Matilda MacAttram, Director of Black Mental Health UK. “He said if elected his party would ensure that the Scottish model would be introduced, where only those convicted of a crime or arrested for a serious offence are kept on the database. This decision not only flouts the European Court ruling on innocent DNA, it also means that almost every black family in the UK will continue to be criminalised by this system. This will have a devastating impact on community relations.”
Olu Alake, President of 100 Black Men of London described the decision to retain innocent DNA as the “most disappointing betrayal by the coalition government, as it is in direct contravention of several promises made by both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives while in opposition.”
He added: “This is particularly galling for the black community as it has been statistically shown that innocent black men are particularly disproportionately overrepresented in the DNA database. We have highlighted the potential adverse impact this can have on the minds of our young people to have trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. It is imperative that the government reviews this position as a matter of urgency.”
Archdeacon Daniel Kajumba, Chair of the Church of England’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Concerns (CMEAC) said he was “most disappointed by this decision to allow the police to continue to retain innocent DNA.”
He said that the decision shows “the government is not taking our concerns seriously and that we cannot take them at their word. This decision is unacceptable; I am of the view that we must make them accountable so that they take our concerns seriously as this is unacceptable.”