Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy has rejected reports in the weekend press that she had "led calls" for the DNA testing of the entire 1-million-resident-strong Bristol area.
A reporter on the Sunday Express, where the story originated, also wrote that McCarthy had said that men should be singled out for testing.
This resulted in a barrage of online criticism, with questions raised about the practicality of such a measure, its impact on civil liberties, as well its target. Yesterday, Avon and Somerset police told El Reg that they were not considering such measures at this moment in time.
In a statement issued by her office today, McCarthy informed us that she had not been leading calls for all men in Bristol to be DNA tested, and it would be wholly inappropriate for her to do so, as this is for the police to decide.
She says she was approached by the Express newspaper, and asked if she supported calls from Louise Smith's parents (a local woman murdered in 1995 and whose killer was traced after DNA testing) for such methods to be used in the Joanna Yeates case. Her response was that she 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".
McCarthy further characterised press speculation specifying men as unhelpful, re-iterating that "it would be for the police to decide who should be tested – male or female".
She adds: "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."
Soundbite MP brought down by the power of the internet, or slightly naïve politician talking far too freely to the national press? The one confident prediction we can make following this story is that she is unlikely to be chatting quite so unguardedly to the Express in the near future. ®