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Hundreds of young children on police DNA database.

Byline: GRAEMEBROWN graeme.brown@birminghampost.net

Almost 6,000 children have had their DNA swabbed by West Midlands Police over a twoyear period - including hundreds of pre-teenage youngsters, the Post can reveal.

The National DNA Database figures show 5,785 swabs were taken both voluntarily and after arrests for a recordable offences.

A total of 3,349 youths between the ages of 10 and 17 were swabbed in 2010 and 2,436 in 2011, according to the figures, obtained by the Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Not every police force takes DNA samples from suspects - but under Home Office guidelines they can legally take swabs from anyone over the age of criminal responsibility, which is currently 10 years old.

Swabs were largely taken from boys and older teens, although 456 children between the ages of 10 and 12 were swabbed in the period.

Dr Helen Wallace, director of Gene-Watch UK, which calls for the public to have a greater say in DNA profiling, said in light of legal changes requiring the genetic fingerprints of innocent people to be destroyed there was no need for such wide use of swabbing.

She said: "The figures suggest that the police are still taking swabs from very young children when this information is not likely to be necessary. "We are not opposed to DNA being collected when it is genuinely to stop crime but I think a lot of people would think these numbers are excessive.

The current policy is to take DNA routinely on arrest. However, there is a law coming in to remove innocent people from the DNA database so in effect it is being done for no reason at times. There is a question over whether this is a good use of public money."

Police are allowed to take DNA from mouth swabs, hair or blood samples regardless of whether that person is charged with an offence.

The swabs were taken both from youngsters who provided a sample voluntarily, for example to eliminate themselves in a specific case, and also criminal justice samples, which are those taken from individuals following an arrest for a recordable offence.

Of the swab samples taken from children by the force in 2010 and 2011, 35 were taken from ten-yearolds, 137 from 11-year-olds, 284 from 12-year-olds, 627 from 13-yearolds, 957 from 14-year-olds, 1,212 from 15-year-olds, 1,273 from 16-year-olds and 1,260 from 17-yearolds.

Richard Meffen, head of the force's Forensic Services Unit, said: "Young people arrested for serious crimes which have a direct and damaging impact on the lives of families in the West Midlands routinely have their DNA samples taken.

"Most samples are taken from youths arrested for criminal damage, violent crime, theft, robbery or burglary.

"These are crimes that strike at the heart of our communities and the use of a DNA database is an important tool in helping solve such offences.

"Results are stored on the database to enhance the ability of officers to solve other linked crimes, now and in the future.

"West Midlands Police have the power and a legal requirement to take DNA, but do not do so for children aged under 10."

Previously forces were allowed to keep the DNA profile and fingerprints even if a case is dropped - until the suspect reached 100 years old.

However, changes were introduced last year through the Protection of Freedoms Bill ruled that profiles for those arrested or charged with a minor offence will be destroyed if they are not convicted That meant the vast majority of the one million UK people on the DNA database who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime were removed from it.

However, records still remain on the Police National Database as the Bill does not require these records to be deleted if a person is innocent, and can be kept to the age of 100.

"The figures suggest that the police are still taking swabs from very young children when this '' information is not likely to be necessary. Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK

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456 children between the ages of 10 and 12 were swabbed by police in 2010 and 2011
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 7, 2013
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