Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1040-1059)|
Mr Vernon Coaker, Mr Tim Hayward and Mr Stephen Webb
19 NOVEMBER 2008
Q1040 Lord Lyell of Markyate: You
are talking about a proposed Communications Data Bill and there
already exist the requirements of the European Data Retention
Directive. I got the impression from your last answer that the
Communications Data Bill was somehow going to give local authorities
a lot of rights to look and see what telephone calls people have
made even if they could not hear the content, and so on. What
are you proposing and why?
Mr Coaker: In terms of the Communications
Q1041 Lord Lyell of Markyate: Yes,
with particular relevance to anything other than serious crime
Mr Coaker: As you know, as far as the
Communications Data Bill is concerned it is now a proposed Bill,
and as the Committee will know we are concerned about the way
in which the capacity of law enforcement and the security services
to access some of the data that they have been able to access
is diminishing and we are concerned about some of the threats
there are to that. It has been well publicised by senior police
officers, by the Director General of the Serious and Organised
Crime Agency and some security services that they are concerned
about the changes to the way in which we are communicating. Frankly,
Chairman, the problem is that in a technological world where all
of us are struggling to keep up the idea that all of the communications
can be accessed now because somebody phones somebody else and
the way in which it is changing through the internet is problematic
for us. As a Government we have to take account of those changes
in technology to ensure that our law enforcement and security
services have the capacity to collect the information and data
that they need according to and consistent with the principles
that I laid out at the beginning. Where we are the present time
is that we are looking at the options that are available to us
and we will publish those options in the new year, January/February,
for public consultation.
Q1042 Chairman: As a Green Paper?
Mr Coaker: As a public consultation document.
All the various options then will be available for people to look
at, for people to debate, discuss and come to some sorts of conclusions
themselves about what they think is necessary, proportionate and
Mr Hayward: If I could just expand on
the bit about the EU DRD, at the moment under the EU DRD the telecoms
companies hold business data which can then be accessed by the
authorities under RIPA. The problem moving forward is that the
telecommunications companies will not necessarily hold all the
data for business purposes and therefore it will not be available
for the authorities to access.
Q1043 Lord Lyell of Markyate: So
what is going to happen?
Mr Hayward: That is why we are looking
at different ways in which we can collect that data and allow
that for access.
Q1044 Lord Lyell of Markyate: Has
this got anything to do with local authorities? If it is MI5,
MI6 and serious crime I do not think we are probably too fussed.
Mr Hayward: No. It is aimed at serious
crime and the intelligence agencies.
Q1045 Baroness Quin: Lord West of
Spithead answered a question in the House of Lords about this
earlier this week. He said, "We are not proposing that data
that have never been collected are held". Is that right?
In other words, what the Government is concerned about is losing
access to data that it already has, not about collecting extra
Mr Coaker: Baroness Quin is absolutely
right, my Lord Chairman. It is about maintaining our capacity,
not about increasing it.
Q1046 Chairman: Can I ask, Minister,
when the consultation document is published in the new year whether
there will be some quite substantial explanatory material to enable
people who will want to respond to understand what it is all about?
Mr Coaker: Absolutely, Chairman. I think
there is a need for us to put that out alongside the consultation
document and that is why Mr Hayward is working particularly on
this project. We are very keen for debate and discussion to be
engaged because it really builds on some of the things that Lord
Peston and Lord Norton were saying earlier on. Part of the issue
here is to get the facts out there so that people can engage with
the debate so that, instead of having a debate about something
that may or may not happen, we have a debate about the serious
options that are available. From a Government perspective if you
have chief police officers, security services, the Serious and
Organised Crime Agency all seriously concerned about the diminishing
capacity that they face, then we need to put those options before
people and say, "These are the ways that you could address
it", and what is acceptable to us and what is not.
Q1047 Viscount Bledisloe: I want
to ask you various questions about the national DNA database.
First of all, according to the Home Office website our DNA database
is the largest of any country in the world. Is that right?
Mr Coaker: I think so, yes. Proportionately
it is, so yes, I guess so.
Q1048 Viscount Bledisloe: We are
told that over five per cent of the UK population is on that database
whereas in America it is only 0.5 per cent. Is that right?
Mr Coaker: The figure I have is that
7.39 per cent of the UK population have a profile on the DNA database.
Q1049 Viscount Bledisloe: 7.9 per
Mr Coaker: 7.39 per cent of the UK population
have a profile on the national DNA database.
Q1050 Viscount Bledisloe: Is it right
also that last year more than 700,000 samples were added to that
database which was a record increase for any one year?
Mr Coaker: I think that will be about
right. The reason I hesitate slightly is that I have hundreds
of statistics in front of me and it depends what month you use
and they change almost daily, but certainly there would have been
a significant increase.
Q1051 Viscount Bledisloe: That is
what your official is there for.
Mr Webb: It sounds right.
Q1052 Viscount Bledisloe: What on
earth is the justification for us having so much more of our population
on the database than anybody else in the world?
Mr Coaker: Partly because it has enabled
us to solve a significant number of serious crimes. If you look
at the numbers of murders, rapes, serious robberies and other
violent crimes that have been solved as a result of having that
database, we think that in the end is a proportionate response
to tackling crime and it is a justification for it.
Q1053 Viscount Bledisloe: Are you
saying that America, which has only 10 per cent of what we have,
or on your figures even less, only solves 10 per cent of the murders
that we solve?
Mr Coaker: I do not know what the figures
are as compared to America in terms of crime rates. The point
I am making is that the Government's decision here and the judgment
that has been made is that the DNA database and the collection
of DNA samples to be put onto the DNA database have proved an
extremely effective way of tackling crime.
Mr Webb: It is also worth pointing out
that we started many years before other countries so our database
naturally is larger because we have a longer series of entries.
We were first and also we have a national system whereas in other
countries they have a more federal system. It took longer to establish
the idea of a national database.
Q1054 Viscount Bledisloe: Does it
follow from what you are saying that you would think it desirable
if the entire population's DNA was on the database?
Mr Coaker: No, I would not find that
Q1055 Viscount Bledisloe: Why not?
Mr Coaker: Because we have taken a decision
that first of all people who have been convicted of an offence
have their DNA samples retained. We then changed, as you will
know, through two Acts of Parliament in recent years, so that
now DNA samples can be kept for people who are not only convicted
or charged but now arrested and detained at a police station.
I think that is the appropriate response. I think that is a response
that is proportionate and I think is a response that commands
the support of the population. I do not believe, certainly at
the present time, that a national database of everyone is appropriate.
Let me just say this. Even though there is significant debate
and argument about the fact that in England and Wales we retain
DNA samples from people who have been arrested but not subsequently
charged, there is still a threshold there because the officer
who arrests somebody has to arrest them according to the PACE
procedures. That requires them to have reasonable suspicion that
they have committed a crime. They also then have to be taken to
a police station and the custody sergeant there has to decide
that that person should be detained. There is a debate and an
argument about that. Some people do not think that is a high enough
threshold. I think that is an appropriate threshold. There are
others who would argue for a national database. That is not where
the Government is coming from on this. We think we have got it
right and we think it is proportionate to us in order to help
us tackle serious crime.
Q1056 Lord Lyell of Markyate: Just
to help analyse that a bit, personally I am quite in favour of
anybody who has got a criminal record having their DNA on the
database, but when you come to people who have been just arrested
or maybe charged but the charge is never proceeded with, or when
they are found innocent or not found guilty, that is the area
of debate, is it not? Do you have any statistics as to what number
of crimes have been solved as a result of information held on
the DNA database which does not relate to people who were convicted,
and if you can break them down into those three categories it
would be helpful?
Mr Coaker: I have got that information
here. The provisions of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001
came into effect on 11 May 2001. Between that date and 31 December
2005, which are the latest figures we have, there were approximately
200,000 DNA profiles on the national DNA database which would
previously have had to be removed before the 2001 Act was introduced
because the person was acquitted or the charges were dropped.
Of these 200,000 profiles approximately 8,500 profiles from some
6,290 individuals have been linked with crime scene profiles involving
nearly 14,000 offences. These include 114 murders, 55 attempted
murders, 116 rapes, 68 sexual offences, 119 aggravated burglaries
and 127 of the supply of controlled drugs.
Q1057 Lord Lyell of Markyate: The
weasel words are "linked in", are they not? How many
of those 6,290 people's DNA have led to their conviction?
Mr Coaker: I will write to Lord Lyell
about that, but it certainly does demonstrate that there is a
read-across from the retention of that DNA to a significant possibility
that large numbers of people have been responsible for serious
crime, but I will investigate that for you and write to the Committee
with that figure.
Q1058 Chairman: Thank you very much
Mr Webb: It is going to be a very difficult
thing to prove statistically because obviously it is going to
be one item amongst a lot of other things at trial. It might want
to show the DNA link, it might lead to a confession, there might
be other evidence or it might have been contested. We will do
our best but it is not going to be easy to come up with precise
Q1059 Lord Lyell of Markyate: That
is not going to be difficult. Once you have got the DNA link,
if the person is convicted you can tell it. That is pretty straightforward.
Mr Coaker: It is a very important point
and we will write to the Committee with that information.