British Rail workers given kits to collect DNA from spitters
LONDON — Watch out CSI, the British National Rail Service may steal your thunder. Or at least incarcerate scores of anti-social commuters.
In a move sure to drum up wonder, disdain, laughter and appreciation, the English have decided enough is enough when it comes to spitting at rail employees.
Thousands of DNA sampling kits have been distributed to train staffs across England, Wales and Scotland so employees can collect evidence after being spat upon.
Rail officials say the program has already doubled the arrest conviction rate for people suspected of spitting on staff members.
Roughly 1,000 kits have been allocated to select rail employees on the One Network, which serves the area around RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall, according to a One Network spokeswoman.
The British Transport Police say the DNA kits are a necessary tool.
“Unfortunately, we do get a lot of people who assault staff by spitting on them,” British Transport Police spokesman Simon Lubin said. “It is a bit of a sad indictment.”
While 60 percent of the 80,000 crimes a year on British Rail Service are classified as theft, there are still enough spitting episodes to warrant the campaign, Lubin said.
The kits consist of sterile latex gloves, two sterile swabs and a self-sealing evidence bag.
If someone spits at an employee, the employee collects the evidence and hands it off to the transport police, who work to match it against a national DNA database of several million people with criminal convictions. Rail employees can also collect soda cans or bottles or cigarettes from which to draw DNA.
If there is no match, the sample is stored and can be screened against other samples in the future. Theoretically, yesterday’s spit could translate into a jail term two years from now.
“There is no statute of limitations,” Lubin said.
The penalty for someone found guilty for spitting on another person, which is considered a common assault, is 5,000 pounds — about $8,750 — and up to six months behind bars. If the assault is deemed to be racially motivated, the sentence can be up to two years in prison.
Alan Perry, British Rail Service head of revenue protection, said employees have embraced the program.
“They are supporting it because this has always been a problem, but there was not much we could do about it,” Perry said. “The technology of DNA has changed that.”
Lubin said the DNA kits are part of a larger effort by the government to curb anti-social behavior. The effort includes recently enacted laws against swearing or playing loud music in public.