DNA database for children who ’could become criminals’

DNA database for children who ’could become criminals’
Children as young as five-years-old could end up on DNA database

Simon Johnson
London Telegraph
March 17, 2008

Primary school children should be put on the national DNA database if their behaviour suggests they will become criminals, a senior Scotland Yard expert said yesterday.

Gary Pugh, the director of forensic science and the new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, called for a debate on the measures required to identify future offenders.

He said: “If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long term the benefits of targeting younger people are extremely large.

“We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to society.”

But critics said this was a step towards a police state that would risk stigmatising youngsters who had yet to commit a criminal act.

The details of more than 4.5 million people, including about 150,000 children under the age of 16, are held on the Government’s database, making it the largest system of its kind in the world.

Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the database after being arrested will have reached about 1.5 million this time next year.

Police in England and Wales need parental consent to take a DNA sample from children under 10, the age of criminal responsibility.

Children in Scotland can be charged with an offence at eight, but police cannot take DNA if they are younger.

Julia Margo, from the Institute for Public Policy Research who wrote a recent report on the issue, agreed that it was possible to identify risk factors in children aged five to seven. But she said that placing young children on a database risked stigmatising them.

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