Police commissioner defends taking DNA from children

PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 June 2013

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CRIME czar David Lloyd has defended Hertfordshire Police taking DNA samples from children

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) was reacting to a story on the front of last week’s Welwyn Hatfield Times, which revealed Herts officers had taken 912 samples from youngsters in 2011 and 1,189 the previous year.

The figures were released by charity the Howard League for Penal Reform.

He said: “It is important to recognise that this information can be operationally critical.

“Even though we are talking about under-18s, it must be noted that this group can often be responsible for some very serious crimes – to call it ‘mischief’ is a bit naive.”

But he described the decline in sample-taking as “going in the right direction”.

“There is an important point here about personal freedoms and I am glad that things are going in the right direction on DNA – with fewer samples being taken and being kept for less time,” he added.

The practice was attacked by civil liberties pressure group Big Brother Watch.

Nick Pickles, the group’s director of privacy and civil liberties, said: “Police forces should not be routinely taking DNA samples from children, it is that simple.

“If the investigation involves DNA evidence then it may be proportionate to take a sample, but for minor offences the police should be very wary of treating children like criminals, especially when Parliament has just changed the law to end the retention of innocent people’s DNA.”

He added: “Ultimately, if you treat people of whatever age like criminals and undermine the presumption of innocence, you risk further undermining trust in the police and that helps no-one.”

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