Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Labour) Peer. Minister of State for the Criminal Justice System and Offender Management, Home Office. Became a Lord in 1997. She has a law degreee from London University. supported by under-secretary of state Fiona Mactaggart MP.


DNA database

Uncorrected oral evidence from the Home Affairs Committee session on young Black people in the criminal justice system 13 March 2007

Bob Russell MP: Lady Scotland, it has been reported in Parliament that 32% of all black males are on the DNA database in comparison with 8% of white males, and it has been reported more recently that perhaps as many as 77% of young black males will soon be on the DNA database. Are those figures correct?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The figures in relation to 77% I think are correct, and we have to look at why that is. The database, of course, simply collates information properly retained from the criminal justice process. We changed the rules, as you remember, to enable us to retain DNA data on a greater number of occasions than we have had hitherto. At one stage we could only retain data if someone was convicted; then we could retain data if someone was charged, tried and convicted or acquitted. Then we have moved it back to be able to retain data on arrest, and as we have done that we have been able to collate more and more data to the successful extent that we are able to better identify those who have committed crime, but also better identify those who have not committed crime. So it is a sword and a shield.

Bob Russell MP: It is not the same for the white population though, is it?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, and that I can say to you is a matter of concern to us because the disproportionality that may be reflected in the criminal justice process is being reflected in the DNA database. Overall, of course, from the statistics available the difference is not so great, so, for instance, we have 84% arrests are white, 9% are black, 5% are Asian, 1% are classified as other and 1% are unknown, and the figures in relation to arrest are reflected in the data sets that were kept.

Bob Russell MP: I want to keep to the DNA database because that is where I am putting the questioning. So if three out of every four young black men are on the DNA database.

Bob Russell MP: 77%, three out of four. Trevor Phillips made the observation - and I am quoting him - "This is tantamount to criminalizing a generation of young black men." Do you agree with him?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I do not think that it is tantamount to criminalizing a generation of black men, but I think the way in which the criminal justice system is operating is something that this Committee is looking at because of the level of disproportionality. The disproportionality in the criminal justice system is being reflected in the figures that we are collecting on the database. So the data that we have affects the arrest rate, more or less. So it is whether someone is arrested, because at the point of arrest if your DNA is taken and put on the database it does not mean that you are subsequently charged, it does not mean that you are subsequently convicted; but it does mean that your data will be retained.

Bob Russell MP: I think those percentages in that last comment speaks volumes.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As I have said, if you look at the arrest rates of 84% white, 9% black, 5% Asian and 2% either other/unknown, the database reflects that arrest proportionally.

As uncorrected oral evidence neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings