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So why is this not front-page news?

To quote David Davis MP, three months ago, “How will we know we are living in a police state?”

Is it when the police conduct a systematic campaign of false arrests in order to gather information on people who might commit a crime? Is it when they do that, and public reaction is no more than a shrug? A couple of days ago, The Daily Telegraph reported discoveries made by my local Liberal Democrat PPC, excellently living up to the first bit of her party’s vaguely oxymoronic name:

Officers are targeting children as young as 10 with the aim of placing their DNA profiles on the national database to improve their chances of solving crimes, it is claimed.

The alleged practice is also described as part of a “long-term crime prevention strategy” to dissuade youths from committing offences in the future. […]

A Metropolitan Police officer made the claims after figures were released showing that 386 under-18s had their DNA taken and stored by police last year in Camden, north London.

The officer said: “Have we got targets for young people who have not been arrested yet? The answer is yes. But we are not just waiting outside schools to pick them up, we are acting on intelligence.*

“It is part of a long-term crime prevention strategy. If you know you have had your DNA taken and it is on a database then you will think twice about committing burglary for a living.

“We are often told that we have just one chance to get that DNA sample and if we miss it then that might mean a rape or a murder goes unsolved in the future.”

Acting “on intelligence”, that is, hearsay, unsubstantiated allegations, and prejudice, when they know they have no evidence let alone reasonable suspicion of any actual crime — for intelligence is not evidence, it is a substitute for evidence in its absence — the Metropolitan Police are making unlawful arrests, in order to take samples (fingerprints and DNA), that it is deemed by the human rights court to be improper for them to hold in any case. And that fact has not caused public outrage. It has yet to reach any broadcast news service, as far as I am aware.

A quiescent, compliant public and a quiescent, compliant media, are the handmaidens of a police state.

23 comments to So why is this not front-page news?

  • Gabriel

    A couple of years ago a scumbag robbed my house. The police didn’t know what to do and weren’t terribly interested in doing anything even if they did. However, by fortuitous chance, the little rat faced shit left some blood in the house and they took it for their records. A couple of months later his mother dragged him to the police after she found him with drugs, they tested him and he fessed up to that, 11 other burglaries, 2 counts of stealing a car and a bunch of drug related things. He got a suspended sentence and a £60 fine (sic … the police explained that they thought if he was put in a young offenders institute he was a suicide risk, I bit my tongue.)

    Anyway, I have a point, but first let me emphasise, as clearly as I can, THIS IS BAD. However, DNA databases are one of the few effective tools the police have left against common thugs and they will inevitably use it to the max. We are living in the early years of the breakdown of civil society in this country; it’s caused by too many things to mention, but Libertarians have played a small part in bringing it about and must bear a commensurate share of the blame. As we continue to slide, the forces of law and order will do more of this sort of flailing about to try and stem the tide and, short of suspending elections, I don’t see how any government could resist the pressure to do so. I’m not even sure they should. We’re heading for a Clockwork Orange type universe as it is, I’m not sure a low-crime police state would represent a worse choice than a high-crime one.

  • William H Stoddard

    Wait a minute. The British police are doing something so bad that a European Union court doesn’t allow it? The European Union could be restricting a British movement toward authoritarianism? When did I shift to a parallel timeline?

  • You can only anally rape one child at a time.

    You can destroy the liberty of every child at the same time.

    You cannot care about the children if you are working to bequeath them a world in which they will have no liberty.

  • guy herbert

    It’s not a European Union court. It is a court set up by a convention of 1950 to which the UK was one of the first signatories, overseeing the application of the convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was point-by-point designed to repudiate the conduct of the Nazi and the Soviet police-states.

  • guy herbert


    It is a false alternative. Police-states don’t have low crime. They have low crime statistics. General lawlessness and an officialdom that can itself commit crimes with impunity provide much more opportunity and tolerance for actual crime.

  • ThousandsOfMilesAway

    So why is this not front-page news?

    Because the frog never realises the water’s getting hot until it’s too late?

  • Gabriel

    It is a false alternative. Police-states don’t have low crime. They have low crime statistics. General lawlessness and an officialdom that can itself commit crimes with impunity provide much more opportunity and tolerance for actual crime.

    I don’t doubt it, but as I said this sort of authoritarian flailing is inavoidable as civilized life decays. (In any case, even accepting that all police states are high crime, some are higher than others).

  • thefrollickingmole

    Pretty simple, no holding of data without a conviction. What level of conviction is another thing though, burgalry, yes as opposed to jaywalking no.

    The vast majority of crime is committed by a smallnumber of people. The state has effectively transferred the cost of crime back onto the community and insurance companies in its quest to find excuseot to gaol repeat offenders.
    A base strting point for burgalry should be “how many hours of the victims life were needed to purchase the items stolen”.

    Because thats effectively what is being stolen. Thousands of work hours of the victim.

  • Sunfish

    DNA databases are one of the few effective tools the police have left against common thugs

    Take the word ‘effective’ out of there and I might agree.

    DNA is like a fingerprint. That is, the DNA left in a particular place is a piece of circumstantial evidence that indicates that the person belonging to that DNA was in that place at some unknown time in the past. Just as, a latent fingerprint on an object is strongly suggestive that a person corresponding to that print handled the object at some unknown time in the past.

    Emphasis on the ‘unknown.’ Estimating age of such a print or sample is hardly an exact science. A recoverable latent print can be recovered from, say, cardboard, decades later. That is, with very careful effort in the lab. But anyway…

    In any community, police know who’s committing the street crimes, the burglaries and thefts, etc. We don’t need to screw with the rules of evidence or to intrude into private lives to deal with it. All we need is meaningful sentencing: it’s the same shitheads over and over, and they can’t offend while they’re locked up. I don’t care if we provide them with free cocaine and the ugliest prostitutes to be hired while they’re in prison, just as long as they stay there.

    This story ties into a recent US Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. Gant. Once upon a time, SCOTUS ruled that the 4th Amendment allows police to search people, without a warrant, incident to a lawful arrest. The reason that SCOTUS gave, for the search incident to arrest, was to prevent the arrestee from obtaining a weapon or destroying evidence. SCOTUS limited the search to those places where an arrestee might reasonably be able to get a weapon or destroy evidence at the time of the arrest, commonly[1] called the ‘wingspan.’

    In a case called NY v. Belton, SCOTUS said that, when a driver is arrested out of a vehicle, the entire passenger compartment may be searched incident to arrest. This, even if the driver is already removed from the car and handcuffed (which in my traffic arrests is virtually always the case long before we’re to the point of searching the car).

    Then, some cops got lazy. They started arresting drivers for misdemeanor traffic violations, things that are technically arrestable but that also give us the option of issuing him a summons to appear and releasing from the scene. An arrest made entirely for the purpose of justifying a search incident to arrest.

    About a month ago, SCOTUS reversed this. Without getting into the minutiae, searches incident to arrest in the US are now forced back to being of a scope and nature consistent with what SCOTUS originally said when they allowed such searches in the first place. And it only took a half-century or so.

    The parallel between pimpy little “Careless Driving” custodial arrests merely to justify a search, and pimpy little juvie arrests merely to collect cheek swabs, should be obvious. I think both are chickenshit, although I can’t speak to the legality of the UK practice, being unfamiliar with UK law.

    [1] ‘Commonly,’ but it’s more involved than that. 4th-Amendment case law usually is.

  • lucklucky

    Because the Media are Statists.

  • No, luckylucky, in this day and age, the media are the state. They control the information and thereby everyone who consumes it, the ‘government’ included.

    As we have seen in the past, and especially in the last couple of weeks, the media can make or break a government. All it takes is for the owners of said media to decide that they want a change and it happens. Of course I’m talking about privately owned media and not institutions like the Beeb (whose motives are opaque to me and many others, you’d think it would be in their interests to keep the government happy and feeding them their tax.)

    This is not to say that an independent and privately owned media is not a good thing, it is far better than one owned and controlled entirely by the government, but there is always a risk that the individuals owning said media will use it to push their own agenda. News media should be about reporting facts and allowing the individual consumer to draw their own conclusions, unfortunately we don’t live in that world.

    We live in a world where rich and powerful people control the information we recieve and decide what scare the government has to ‘do something’ about this week. Instead of simply reporting the facts we get sensationalism, scare stories, and salacious voyeurism.

    Back on topic: the reason that this is not being widely reported as the scandal it is, is because its not as sensational or sleazy as the current government falling to peices before our eyes. Its procedural, dry, boring and I hate to say it but quite a few of the tabloid reading populace are more than likely quite happy for it to be happening.

    “They came for the chavs, but I did nothing because I’m a nice middle class professional from suburbia who sterilises their house against bacteria, eats organic food, recycles, and saves the whales. If they came for the whales then I’d be up in arms, but they’re only chavs after all, they’re not nice people like me.”

    I’m sooo glad I won’t be living here much longer.

  • “Anyway, I have a point, but first let me emphasise, as clearly as I can, THIS IS BAD. However, DNA databases are one of the few effective tools the police have left against common thugs and they will inevitably use it to the max.”

    Gabriel, your example has nothing to do with a DNA database. Crime scene samples and testing genuine suspects does not a DNA database make.

    In general, I think you are wrong that society is getting more violent. Sure it isn’t the 1950s and our criminal justice system is defective but in general, things aren’t looking too bad and I live on and off in some of the hotter areas of London.

  • RayD

    Gabriel, the problem with your anecdote is that very few burglars conveniently leave DNA at the scene of the crime.

    A sensible question to ask is “How many crimes go unsolved where there is DNA evidence that cannot be matched?” The police have been asked this and their replies were not very convincing.

    So if it’s not going to solve crimes, what is the DNA database for? Well, I can think of two things straight off. Firstly, it acts as a deterrent to the irredeemably stupid, rather like TV detector vans, and secondly it provides a terrific way of fitting up inconvenient people. “You must have done it. It’s not us just saying so, the DNA evidence proves it.”

    As Mandrill says, they’re only chavs, so who cares?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Appalling. I hope the MSM picks this up, Guy.

    As for the issue of crimes that others have mentioned, the police/courts should focus on ensuring that the basic laws of the land are enforced, not what amounts to long-term fishing expeditions, which is essentially what is going on this story.

  • Gabriel

    Gabriel, your example has nothing to do with a DNA database. Crime scene samples and testing genuine suspects does not a DNA database make.

    Uhh, yeah it does, because when he was brought in to the police station he was not a suspect for the crime in question (or any other). He was being tested for the specific purpose of being added to the DNA database and was not at the time of a convicted criminal (having received only a caution.)

    In general, I think you are wrong that society is getting more violent.

    We’ll see. This country wouldn’t survive a suspension of welfare payments for 3 days without mob violence in every city and unless the government finds a pot of gold somewhere at the end of a rainbow, that’s an inevitability.

    On the point of “chavs”. The fellow who burgled me grew up in a household significantly wealthier than mine and this is true of most chavs I have has acquaintance with. Chavs are not a poor and oppressed underclass (though some chavs may be poor) they are moral degenerates, or, as Peter Hitchens puts it, “practical atheists”.

  • Cleanthes

    “how many hours of the victims life were needed to purchase the items stolen”.

    That’s not the measure: the items themselves are only the tip of the problem. Add in costs of lock changes, increases to insurance premia, cleaning up the destruction, time and effort wasted on all sides bringing the case to court etc etc.

  • Brad

    People allowed guns and electrifying the bars they put on their windows would be a good deterrent too. Every Statist decision has Statist antecedants. Disarm the public forces the next environment that the State then has to make its next set of decisions, ususally in its own favor.

    Punks would think twice about burglarizing anyone if they thought there was a better than average chance that they’d get a sawed off shotgun blast to the midsection. But such isn’t allowed. Can’t have the average rabble running around defending themselves. We’ll just put cameras up everywhere and put everyone’s DNA in database.

    And what will be next? Will burglaries be cut down? Maybe in the short term, but criminals are fairly savvy and can roll with the changes. They’ll just torch their targets to the ground – no DNA. Why are we finding more kids in shallow graves these days? Have we cut down the number of child assaults? And if we have, somewhat, is it offset by the “nuclear” option of killing and disposing of their targets?

    The State, first and foremost, is in the business of protecting itself. We aren’t allowed to be the first line of our own defense, lest we turn against our masters, and the DNA database is for it’s own purposes first and the use to solve crimes against Joe Citizen is but a secondary “benefit”.

  • Nick

    You have to ask yourself what is different about DNA from fingerprints? When fingerprints were discovered as a crime detection method there was not a clamour to take them from every citizen. Even where fingerprints were taken if a suspect was released without charge or found not guilty the fingerprint impressions had to be destroyed. Now there seems to be a presumption of guilt at the point of suspicion and/or arrest. The approach seems to have shifted about what is and is not acceptable in the fight against crime and the Home Office/police faction can impose on civil society in a way that they could not have dreamed of 40 years ago. Part of the reason is the hysteria about crime whipped up by the government, the media and the police (who used to play it down). It becomes emotional rather than rational and focussed on the victims so that anything is justified in order to prevent someone becoming a victim. The balance has swung, but too far in one direction.

    The same is happening with surveillance. Before IT the authorities would not have dreamed of opening and copying everyone’s letters “just in case”. But because the digital world makes this feasible it is justified as a preventative and detection measure.

    The point about intelligence is also well made, Intelligence can be dead wrong. Any police system that seeks to potentially criminalise people on the basis of information, suspicion, rumour, etc., without proper investigation and trial before law must be considered very dangerous. I understand that government agencies and quangos now share intelligence dossiers about “suspects” in various areas of activity which can result in official sanctions without ever the subject being directly accused or standing before a court of law. Most of this has been driven by hysterical or alarmist attitudes towards the possibility of wrong doing where the end – security/safety – justifies any means. In reality and as we see on almost a daily basis these draconian and freedom infringing impositions do not guarantee the protection and safety of the innocent. That awful platitude “nothing to hide nothing to fear” has made it almost impossible to resist these impositions and any dissent is demonised as not “right thinking”. Coercion then becomes the norm.

  • Chris H

    Gabriel, I have a problem with your connecting moral degenerates with atheism. I am an atheist, I do not commit burglaries, give time and money to charities and give my blood away. I work hard to support my family and grudgingly pay my taxes.

    On the subject of reducing crime, I rather think that a rational approach to drug abuse would probably make the biggest difference.

  • “practical atheists”

    Given the sheer fucking horror that people have wrought through history, and then duly trotted off to church for forgiveness afterwards, that sort of association (1) makes me chuckle (2) makes me feel a certain kinship with people who knick the lead off church roofs or throw bricks through mosque windows.

  • Gabriel

    Yeah, whatever. the important thing is that in my experience
    a) Use of DNA databases with samples taken from the unconvicted works at catching thugs. (So you can’t have the typical Libertarian have your cake and eat it argument, I’m afraid.)
    b) This has been going on at least 5 years.

  • RayD

    Nick asks what makes DNA so different from fingerprints?

    Simple. You can’t plant fingerprints.

  • guy herbert


    Yes you can. It us easier to plant fingerprints than DNA convincingly because latent prints don’t scatter widely.

    However the idea that the planting of either is a significant problem is as much a paranoid fantasy as Gabriel’s belief that we are descending into a Clockwork Orange world. (I’m inclined to read Burgess’s fantasy as a satire on the consequences of moral panic – but then I would, wouldn’t I? Some commentators might prefer his 1985, to which is very hard to attribute subtlety.)