Black church and community leaders have launched a new online opinion poll to gauge public attitudes towards government plans to retain the DNA of citizens with no criminal record, many of whom are discharged suspects.
The initiative for the poll, which because of its nature will be indicative rather than determinative, has come from the campaigning group Black Mental Health UK.
Although the Home Office launched a consultation on the retention of innocent DNA earlier in May 2009, Black Mental Health UK says that the leaders of many black majority churches and large parts of the wider black community have remained completely unaware of the consequences for ethnic minorities living in the UK.
In this sense, the poll is a tool for raising awareness and is part of a mobilisation around the issue from civil liberties groups, acdemics and concerned citizens.
Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK, said the implications of retaining the DNA of innocent people had not received sufficent public debate.
She warned that many of the communities most likely to be affeted by the move may not, for a variety of reasons, be able to engage in the government consultation.
“This poll allows everyone affected by this issue to have a say,” MacAttram declared.
Currently, over a third of the black male population living in the UK is on the DNA database, leading some black church leaders to fear that the reforms will disproportionately criminalise the black community.
The government’s commitment to maintaining the register comes despite a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that retaining the DNA of innocent people is in violation of the fundamental right to privacy enshrined in European law.