Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 18:39 UK

DNA policy 'stigmatises children'

Scientist examining DNA sequence
There are 3,243 DNA profiles on the database taken from Camden children

DNA samples are being taken from children in a London borough at the rate of nearly one a day, figures show.

A freedom of information (FOI) request by the Liberal Democrats showed DNA has been taken from an average of 360 young people in Camden every year since 2000.

The samples, from children as young as 10, have been kept regardless of whether charges were ever brought.

Jo Shaw from the Lib Dems, who made the FOI request, said the practice was a "costly way of stigmatising" children.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said that taking children's DNA following arrest was not part of a crime prevention strategy.

Ms Shaw, Lib Dem parliamentary campaigner for Holborn & St Pancras, made the FOI request to the government's DNA database holder, the National Policing Improvement Agency.

Cllr Jo Shaw, Lib Dem, Camden Council

Children's DNA taken 'each day'

The figures showed that, so far in 2009, mouth swabs have been taken from 139 "subject profiles" aged between 10 and 17 and stored alongside data about each child's ethnic appearance, sex and age.

In total, there are 3,243 "profiles" on the database collected from children in Camden, according to the agency.

The European Court of Human Rights said in December that keeping the DNA profiles and fingerprints of unconvicted suspects was unlawful.

Ms Shaw said: "Storing the DNA of innocent people as young as 10, is unlikely to solve Camden's crime problems, but is a costly way of stigmatising young people.

"If you're innocent, you shouldn't have your data on who you are kept for years."

Teenagers are not arrested purely on the basis to obtain DNA samples
Metropolitan Police spokesman

A Met spokesman said: "There is not a crime prevention strategy in Camden for taking DNA.

"Whilst any DNA samples obtained following arrest can lead to more serious crimes being solved, we do not actively seek to obtain DNA for this purpose.

"Police officers operate within a legislative framework which enables them to effect arrests based on individual discretion that targets offenders, crime and criminality.

"Teenagers are not arrested purely on the basis to obtain DNA samples."

The European Court of Human Rights ruling affects some 850,000 people in the UK, although not in Scotland.

Nevertheless, the government last month outlined plans to hold the DNA profiles of innocent people for up to 12 years.

Civil rights groups who said the proposals were an insult to the European ruling were described by Commons Leader Harriet Harman as being "against justice".

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