Old news department, or a taste of how NIR information will be implemented. I emphasise.
A FYLDE coast student was arrested after posting Christmas cards to his family
Stunned David Atkinson found himself at his local police station under suspicion of stealing the festive greetings he last saw when he put them in a postbox five years ago. Due to fingerprints found on the mail – which was stolen then recovered – police thought they had their man. However, it transpired the “suspect’s” fingerprints were those of the student who had innocently sent the cards to relatives when he was 15.
Mr Atkinson, now 21, of [address omitted – gosh, to think that his address was posted online after this, mm], was arrested because his DNA and fingerprints had been kept on record under controversial Government laws to combat terror.
It was only after Mr Atkinson asked officers to look more deeply into the crime his innocence was proved.
The law student said it has shattered his confidence in the system. He said: “The potential incompetence, laziness, or over enthusiasm of an individual officer means an innocent, law-abiding citizen can never truly have confidence in the giant police database.”
It was the second time Mr Atkinson had been arrested – twice for crimes he did not commit. He has now lent his support to a campaign to force a rethink by the Home Office.
The mix-up began last March when Mr Atkinson was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage – but, when the real culprit gave himself up to police, he was released without charge.
During his short time with the police, he had his fingerprints and DNA taken as part of the arrest procedure but, under recently passed laws, all details – no matter whether the person is innocent or guilty – are kept on a national computer.
Mr Atkinson thought nothing of it until he got a call from officers a month later asking him to go along to the station. He said: “I was arrested as soon as I went in. “The officer told me he had a computer report which had automatically matched my fingerprints with those recovered from a number of items of post which had been stolen from a letter box in December 2000.
“As a result of this report alone, and no further investigation, the officer advised me to ‘get the matter out of the way quickly and take a caution now’.
“After refusing to admit a crime I’d not committed, I was bailed while further investigations were made.”
“The recovered letters were in fact my family Christmas cards which had been taken after I had posted them five years ago.
“This innocent explanation had not even crossed the officer’s mind and, as far as he was concerned, if his computer report said I was guilty then I had to be.”
Mr Atkinson complained to Lancashire Constabulary and eventually received an apology. But, he claims, without the Government’s “menace to our freedom”, he would not have been put through the ordeal. A police spokesman said: “We can confirm that we did receive a complaint in August about a wrongful arrest concerning stolen post. “This was investigated thoroughly under our normal complaints procedure and dealt with locally to the satisfaction of both parties. “Under current legislation, all police forces can retain and record DNA taken for arrestable offences no matter what the eventual outcome of the investigation.”
22 February 2006