I wrote to Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy about my concerns about DNA testing the entire male population of Bristol. She wrote back. First my letter, then hers.
Dear Ms. McCarthy
I don’t normally write to politicians, nor do I live in your riding, nor am I a man, but your idea that all the men in Bristol should be DNA tested to help find Ms.Yeats killer is an incredibly naive statement coming from an elected politician.
Do you actually think the killer will willingly come forward to be DNA tested? Your statement ‘most men will understand’ smacks of a degree of idiocy I would not generally attribute to an elected politician. What kind of game are you playing? Molly coddle the women voters? Appease the Yeates family, and by extension, the public’s need for the murderer to be found?
It’s also incredibly sexist to assume that her killer is a man. It may very well have been a woman. We do not know.
You need to think this through and retract your support. Be a leader, not a people-pleaser.
Think it through. It’s not a rational idea and it has no place in the free world. Or do you just want everybody’s DNA on file?
It’s very, very creepy.
Wake-up your rational mind and think about the ramifications.
When a likely suspect is found, you can be sure a good criminal investigator will get the DNA, but collecting all the DNA of all the men in Bristol is just ridiculous to the point of being ludicrous.
Here’s her reply (promptly written the same day, I might add!):
The way the press has chosen to report my comments on the Jo Yeates murder investigation has understandably caused a great deal of concern. I would like to make clear that I have not been leading calls for all men in Bristol to be DNA tested, and it would be wholly inappropriate for me to do so, as this is for the police to decide.
I was approached by the Express newspaper, and asked if I supported calls from Louise Smith’s parents (a local woman who was murdered in 1995 and whose killer was traced after DNA testing) for such methods to be used in the Joanna Yeates case. My response was that I would support the police in DNA testing if the investigating officers considered that it would be a useful step in helping to identify Jo’s killer.
Although much of the press speculation has specified men, perhaps unhelpfully, it would be for the police to decide who should be tested – male or female. I did, though, query whether it would be more productive to test beyond Clifton specifically, as only one of many practical and logistical considerations, if this option was pursued.
I am of course aware that people in Bristol would be concerned about the civil liberties aspects of DNA testing, and whether their records would be retained on the DNA database, so this would need to be looked at if the police do consider testing at some point. I also made clear that it could prove very difficult to test a significant proportion of the Bristol population, and that I am unclear how the police would actually go about it.
I hope you will be reassured that I have not “called” for testing, and nor have I in any way pre-empted what the police might do. I merely agreed that DNA testing has proved useful in solving crimes, but the police are best placed to decide whether it would be helpful in this instance.
Kerry McCarthy MP