Black church leaders concerned over criminal DNA database

Published 18 July 2008
Black church leaders are to join a symposium at Parliament next week to raise their concerns over the high proportion of African and Caribbean people without a criminal record who are listed in the national criminal DNA database.

Currently, 57 per cent of all innocent DNA in London has been taken from members of the African and Caribbean community, whilst overall the database has the details of around 500,000 people who have no current conviction, caution, formal warning or reprimand.

The symposium is being hosted by Sarah Teather MP on behalf of Black Mental Health UK in association with Gene Watch, 100 Black Men and Christians Together in Brent.

She said: "If someone is black, their details are three times more likely to be stored on the database than if they are white.

"In a world where much crime goes undetected, a small skewing of police behaviour leads to a large discrepancy in outcomes for different ethnic and racial groups... It is time we broke the cycle."

The symposium follows the introduction of a private members' bill in Parliament this month calling for the details of those without a criminal record to be removed from the database.

"We have to raise awareness about these issues in our churches," said Bishop Wayne Malcolm, Chair of Christian Life City in Hackney, east London. "We are a critical mass who need to speak out with one voice as this needs to be addressed. Just being on that database suggests that you are involved in criminal activity.

"These statistics suggestion is that black men are criminals and this is not the case. This goes against the original purpose of the database, which was to keep records of convicted criminals.

"Something needs to be done as the Government may change the rules on how this technology used which may go against us in the future."

Whilst Home Office figures show that black people are less likely to commit a crime than white people, 77 per cent of young black men are listed on the database, compared with 9 per cent of Asians and 6 per cent of white people.

"If you want the BME (black minority ethnic) communities to trust the police and the establishment then they must be open and transparent," said Pastor Desmond Hall, Christian Together in Brent What are the reasons for storing such large numbers of innocent peoples DNA? It undermines community cohesion and a lot of good work that has been done. This has to be dealt [with]."

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