Some thoughtful challenges to the government’s policy plans on DNA retention have appeared recently. The current policy is under review because of a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the retention of DNA from those who are arrested but not subequently charged breaches EU law.
– Article in the Guardian, arguing that the current policy proposals are based on flawed evidence and interpretation;
– Paper by two professors from Lancaster University, cited in the Guardian article;
– Blog post on Dr Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” blog with some trenchant criticisms of the Home Office research into the statistics of criminal activity;
And here’s the Home Office consultation paper referred to by Dr Goldacre.
Here are a couple of statements I found in these sources, which indicate some of the difficulties of formulating policy statements on the basis of statistical investigation:
“innocent people who have been arrested are as likely to commit crimes in the future as guilty people” – Assertion from the Home Office paper
“half of all crimes are committed by something like 6% of persistent offenders” – comment by Prof. Keith Soothill (University of Lancaster)
I find it hard to see how both of those statements can be true… but then, that’s probably why statistics and I have never really got on.