Monday, 6 April 2009

Sally Anne Bowman and the DNA database

This came as no surprise to me...
THE mother of murdered London model Sally Anne Bowman today called for a DNA database of everyone in Britain to help police catch rapists and other serious criminals.

Linda Bowman, whose 18-year-old daughter's killer Mark Dixie was caught through the use of a DNA sample, said the reform could prevent dangerous offenders remaining free and stop miscarriages of justice.

Dixie, now 38, was convicted last year of Miss Bowman's murder during a sex attack in Croydon in September 2005. He was arrested after his DNA, taken following his arrest over a pub fight in 2006, was linked to the murder scene.

Despite the awful nature of this crime and the emotional turmoil it will have caused the Bowman family it is clear that Linda Bowman's idea is ridiculous.

There is this silly belief among many that a national DNA database will reduce crime. This beleif is probably based on a an extreme faith in technology. But it won't reduce crime. Because the database will only be as good as the data collected and the people who input it.

Just because someone is on the database doesn't mean you're going to be able to find them. Or that you will find the right person. There will be too many variables. And one can imagine -- based on previous government projects -- that the error rate will be quite high.

In addition hanging didn't stop murder. Maybe it reduced it, but it didn't stop it. So why would a DNA database?

We have to accept there will always be a small percentage of lunatics in our society who will commit crimes. And the only thing we can do to stop them is to take proportionate precautions.

However emotional the argument is we should not throw our Liberty out of the window in attempt to become more secure. It won't work and we will be worse off for it.


Martin said...
When faced with those who don't care for liberty, we instead have to show why these databases are, in fact, unworkable. Ben Goldacre's little mathematical workings linked above are a great example of this (and should be familier to any fan of Derren Brown)

Roger Thornhill said...

Using DNA to find "someone" is easy. Finding the perp is another.

The tragedy of Madeline McCann shows that DNA can move about and be transported, causing false positives.

TBR said...

Matin that's a great post you linked to.

Everyone who works with data in some way or other knows this won't work. But for someone reason a lot of people have blind faith in the database system.

RichW said...

We need to be more vocal on the issue of principle

- it may be unworkable now, but technology will advance and while this current government may be too pathetically imcompetent to back up their sinister motives, we can't rely on all future governments being so hamstrung.

(although their incompetence causes other problems)espe