DNA database details of children ‘should be deleted’

By Mark Hookham | Lancashire Police should delete the DNA records of around 4,000 youngsters held on a computer database, the Liberal Democrats have demanded.
Delegates at the party’s Bournemouth conference overwhelmingly backed a motion to strip out the samples of all under-16s, unless they have been convicted of a violent or sexual offence.

Under current laws, samples can be taken and recorded from youngsters who have been arrested for any crime – including a minor one – even if they are not charged or convicted.

Latest Home Office figures show Lancashire Police have stored and recorded the DNA details of 3,956 youngsters under the age of 16, which will be on the computer system for life.

The force have the DNA details of around 134,169 people in total, including more than 9,743 teenagers aged between 16 and 18.

Police have the power to take DNA samples from anyone arrested and detained in a police station, typically by using a swab to collect saliva, which are then stored permanently.

There are nearly 40,000 children from across Britain who are on the database — the largest in the world, with more than four million samples.

Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said: “Time and time again, this government has shown a cavalier attitude towards the gathering and safeguarding of personal data.

“Ministers may think it is acceptable to keep the DNA of children in perpetuity for the most minor of offences, but the Liberal Democrats have demonstrated today that we do not.”

The Home Office argues that maintaining DNA records of people who come into contact with the police has helped solved major crimes.

Nationally, around one in seven people whose details are placed on the DNA database have never been convicted, cautioned or given a formal warning by police.

As well as calling for DNA details to be removed, Lib Dem delegates called for tougher fines for businesses or public bodies which passed on personal details stored on their computers to other organisations.

In July, a Government-appointed advisory body said there should be a more straightforward system for innocent people to have their samples removed from the database.