Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spin or incompetence? You decide

The Home Secretary has announced today plans to raise "two fingers to the European Court of Human Rights" over DNA retention, with profiles of those arrested but not convicted stored for up to 12 years. They come with some typical Home Office spin from Ms Smith over the apprehension of Mark Dixie, the murderer of Sally Anne Bowman, in 2006:
"I have real sympathy for all those with concerns that any move could undermine a system that helped trap Sally Anne’s killer. And I want to reassure Sally Anne’s father that I will not let that happen."

This misrepresents the salience of the Bowman case for the European Court's ruling in two ways:
  1. Dixie was arrested after a pub brawl and his DNA was matched to a sample retrieved from Bowman's body. Nobody is suggesting that crime scene samples should be destroyed.
  2. Dixie had previously been convicted several times for violent and sexual offences. Nobody is suggesting that DNA profiles should not be retained for those convicted of these serious crimes.

Perhaps the Statistics Authority should have to vet government press releases in the same way they now have to approve government statistics.

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