DNA of under 16s kept on record

CIVIL rights campaigners today accused the government of 'Big Brother' tactics after it emerged police hold the DNA of nearly 1,600 children aged 16 or under in Suffolk.

CIVIL rights campaigners today accused the government of 'Big Brother' tactics after it emerged police hold the DNA of nearly 1,600 children aged 16 or under in Suffolk.

The figures have been published by the Home Office following a parliamentary question tabled by West Suffolk MP Richard Spring.

They reveal that the national DNA database contains the records of 1,593 under-16s from Suffolk, and 44,572 people of all ages from the county.

The statistics today drew sharp criticism from rights activists who claim the database represents an infringement of liberties.

Steve Blake, secretary of Civil Liberty, described the figures as “deeply shocking”.

He said: “We are deeply concerned that the government is maintaining a DNA database of individuals, many of whom have never come to court, let alone been found guilty of an offence.

Most Read

“They may have received police cautions or there was no evidence and the matter never reached court.

“Under those circumstances it would be right for the police to destroy the DNA.

“But it's the Home Office's goal to have everyone on the database.”

Elsewhere in the east of England, Norfolk police have taken the DNA records of 1,636 under 16s, Essex have taken 4,565 and Cambridgeshire 1,666.

Offences including theft, handling, violent crime, burglary, sexual offences, robbery, fraud, forgery and drugs offences can all lead to the taking of a DNA sample.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said the Criminal Justice Act 2003 enabled forces to take DNA samples on arrest for recordable offences.

However, Mr Blake said: “It's been a traditional custom for 1,500 years that an Englishman is innocent until proven guilty, but the state is turning that around.

“We have to regain a sense of our fundamental liberties.

“These figures are deeply shocking.”

A Home Office spokesman said the DNA database was a “key police intelligence tool” helping to identify offenders more quickly.

The spokesman added: “It provides critical investigative leads and provides the police on average with around 3,500 matches each month.

“Taking a DNA sample and fingerprints from those who are arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station, including juveniles aged between ten and 17, is now part of the normal process within a police custody suite.

“Those who are innocent have nothing to fear from providing a sample and retaining this evidence is no different to recording other forms of information such as photographs and witness statements.”

“Under 18s make up approximately a quarter of all arrests and therefore a comparable proportion of young person's profiles on the database should not be unexpected.”

Should children's DNA be kept by police? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk