On the DNA Database, the Coalition agreement was unequivocal: “We will adopt the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.”
However, since then the Government has had second thoughts, and has been persuaded of the case for retaining the DNA of innocent people far and above the Scottish system.
Today’s report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) on the Protection of Freedoms Bill argues that the proposed ‘catch all’ discretion for police to keep DNA of innocent people on the grounds of national security is neither necessary or proportionate.
We would agree. Exactly how you can be both a threat to national security and innocent is a paradox the police and the Government have failed to explain.
The Freedom Bill could do much more to protect the civil liberties of law abiding people, and should do much more to protect against abuses of powers granted under the guise of national security.
Whether restricting the abilities on non-law enforcement agencies to enter homes, regulating CCTV or addressing the storage of biometric information, the committee makes clear that the Protection of Freedoms bill does not fulfil the rhetoric on civil liberties heard from both coalition parties before the election. Indeed, the report highlights how some aspects of the Bill create new risks to individual rights.
Far from being Nick Clegg’s great shake-up of British democracy, this report adds further weight to the concerns that it is largely window dressing for a Government intent on continuing many of the authoritarian polices pursued under Labour.
Hailed as ‘the greatest shake-up of our democracy” since the Great Reform Act, what’s rapidly becoming clear is that the Protection of Freedoms Bill might struggle to be the most radical shake up of our democracy this year.