What could possibly go wrong with an EU-wide DNA database?

dna-3Over the weekend you may have read about the Government’s plans for more policing powers to be transferred over to the EU, including the prospect of the UK joining a Europe-wide DNA database. Considering a debate is planned for Thursday on the current set of Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs, these plans seem absurdly premature.

You can read our briefing note on the reported plans and our concerns about the problems with the current system here.

There are some fundamental problems with the UK’s DNA database (DNAD) that need urgently addressing before the Government even thinks about allowing EU Member States to have direct access to the data. These problems are outlined in our 2012 report (pdf), which was published following the reforms made by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Primarily, we have warned that the Government has failed to implement the Scottish model of data retention, meaning that the discretionary powers to retain DNA without judicial oversight where it is deemed to be in the interests of national security or other such criteria as issued by the Home Secretary remains. It should not be for the police to have the final say if someone’s DNA will be retained and the discretionary powers available to the Home Secretary risk this becoming far too commonplace.

We also find it deeply troubling that English and Welsh citizens could find that their details are retained and shared in situations where someone from Scotland or another country would not have to worry about something that happened many years in the past.

Unsurprisingly the news of these discussions has not gone down well with MP’s, with many also being bitterly opposed to the UK’s involvement in the European Arrest Warrant. The same concerns regarding the EAW canbe applied to an EU-wide DNAD:

  • The EAW is incompatible with the systems and principles of justice in Britain:
    • The EAW is regularly used in other countries for minor offences, resulting in Britain receiving far more warrants than it issues.
    • The EAW does not function efficiently in practice because of inconsistencies among member states regarding appropriate treatment of accused criminals.
    • British citizens can be extradited for crimes that are not an offence in the UK and be extradited several years after the time of the offence.

You can read our briefing note on the EAW click here.

Once again this appears to be the Government’s right hand not knowing what the left is doing. With the Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs debate scheduled for Thursday (10th July) it is surprising that the Foreign Office is paving the way for new powers to be given to Brussels. MP’s should demand further detail of the discussions that have taken place and how the debate, and subsequently the vote, on opt-outs could affect any new transfer of powers.