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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March 2008, 17:02 GMT
Police spokesman sparks DNA row
DNA strand
Thousands of DNA samples from innocent people are now retained
Police chiefs have distanced themselves from their new spokesman on DNA matters after he said primary school children could be eligible for the DNA database.

Gary Pugh, Scotland Yard's director of forensic services, said children should be eligible if they exhibited behaviour indicating criminality in later life.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said his views did not represent those of the organisation.

Civil rights group Liberty said it was "delighted" by Acpo's decision.

'The younger the better'

Mr Pugh told the Observer: "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.

He added: "You could argue, the younger the better. Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime; others won't. We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to Society."

An Acpo spokeswoman said that although they believe the National DNA Database is "an invaluable tool", they do not support DNA profiling for children.

She said: "Gary Pugh has yet to take over as the Acpo lead on the National DNA Database.

The job of police officers is to get on with policing and not to get involved in politics
Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

"If Gary has expressed the views reported in the media this morning, they are his own personal views and not that of Acpo."

Scotland Yard said Mr Pugh's quotes in the Observer were accurate, that he stood by them, and that he was not available for any further comment at this time.

Liberty said they had been appalled by Mr Pugh's comments and welcomed the decision by Acpo to distance themselves from the remarks.

The organisation's director, Shami Chakrabarti, told BBC News: "We're delighted that Acpo have distanced themselves from these unhelpful remarks that do no service to the confidence in the political neutrality of senior police officers.

"The job of police officers is to get on with policing and not to get involved in politics."

Earlier Ms Chakrabarti had described Mr Pugh's remarks as like something out of a "science fiction novel".

Once you're on that database, you're on it for life
Chris Davis, National Primary Headteachers' Association

Chris Davis of the National Primary Headteachers' Association also welcomed Acpo's statement and said he would have been surprised if Mr Pugh's position reflected the views of police officers in general.

He told the BBC: "I think it's something that most primary heads would feel that it's something they wouldn't want to get involved with.

"We wouldn't feel that it is right or appropriate to label kids at that age, once you're on that database, you're on it for life.

"It's using statistics to make judgments that may not be appropriate for that child."

Targeting 'least effective'

A recent Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report found that children who went on to become prolific offenders could often be identified at a young age.

But Julia Margo, IPPR's associate director, said that what was necessary was to identify the families they came from who were often neglectful or abusive, and provide them with support, rather than labelling the children as future offenders.

Ms Margo said the IPPR had assessed approaches from across Europe to preventing children from becoming young offenders.



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