Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Paternity test keeps Hackney in DNA debate

Is there a storm brewing over Paternity test kits in Hackney?

BBC Story: Users of the £149 kits need to swab the cheek of both child and father. The swabs are then sent to a laboratory to determine fatherhood. Kits are on sale at a chain pharmacy in Hackney, having been introduced across the rest of the UK earlier this year. But public interest group Ethics of Reproduction said: "The result of a test is likely to be harmful."

And so Hackney remains at the cutting edge of DNA ethics debates.

Diane Abbott was the figurehead of a recent and successful campaign to prevent the DNA of innocent people being stored on a government database:

Stories below are from the Guardian.

July 2009: Where's the debate on the DNA database?
August 2009: Get the Innocent off the DNA database.
September 2009: Helping Children off the DNA database.

The September story showed how this issue affected people in Hackney:

On the same day Liberty held our
first DNA clinic with Diane Abbott MP. From the moment the clinic was advertised we were overwhelmed by inquiries from people seeking help with destruction of their DNA. In 2007, Lady Scotland confirmed that three-quarters of the young black male population would soon be on the DNA database, so it was no surprise that we had a clinic full of young black men and boys, smart in their school blazers and flanked by worried parents.

Their accounts were depressingly similar. They had generally been arrested because they fit the physical description of a suspect – the suspect being described as a young black man. After interview they were released without charge, but their DNA and other records are held, currently until they die or reach 100. Despite their youth most had already been stopped and searched by police at least 10 times. The fact that the police searches found nothing means little. Each time they are subsequently stopped and searched they come under additional suspicion because they have been arrested in the past. It is a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle of suspicion, and it amazes me that despite the damning figures – published year after year under section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 – these practices continue.

Then the government U-turned.
But according to a Guardian commentator:
This is no innocent U-turn on DNA database

A twist in the tale being that residents of Hackney South and Shoreditch have an MP who is actually in charge of the DNA database. Here are some of Meg Hillier's views on the database:

It is worth stressing that a person's DNA being on the database does not suggest guilt; it is simply a registration of their DNA and basic biographical information. It is also worth asking which of the crimes solved thanks to the DNA database—the 452 homicides, the 644 rapes and the more than 8,000 domestic burglaries—the hon. Gentleman wishes had not been resolved as a result.

Now Hackney residents should be wondering if, as parents - or non parents - they have a right to inspect a child's DNA. Should a child in Hackney have the same rights to keep its DNA to itself as Hackney adults?

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