Children Being DNA Swabbed by Police

Devon and Cornwall police has been accused of treating too many children like taking DNA samples from them.

The prison pressure group, the Howard League for Penal Reform,  says in 2011  more than a thousand children across the two counties were swabbed by our police.

New research by the charity has found that in England and Wales officers took swabs from almost 54,000 boys and girls aged 17 or under during 2011.

They included at least 368 10-year-olds and 1,030 11-year-olds, meaning that on average officers took samples from 27 primary school-age children every week.

Many of the children required to give a sample will not have been charged with a criminal offence.

Under current rules, police can retain indefinitely the DNA of anyone they arrest for a recordable offence. A new law, imposing tighter restrictions on DNA retention, is expected to come into force later this year.

About 30 per cent of the child DNA samples taken by police come from girls.

The charity's Mark Gettleson said that children who got into trouble with the police were usually just up to mischief and treating so many like hardened criminals by taking their DNA seemed excessive.  He's been talking to our reporter Wendy Buckingham  CLICK HERE

Last December, the Howard League published data which showed that the total number of children arrested by police had fallen by a third between 2008 and 2011.

In total, more than one million child arrests have been made in England and Wales since 2008.

The Association of Chief Police Officers's Amanda Cooper said:

"DNA may be taken from children in a number of circumstances with the intention of preventing or detecting crime. These may be when a child has been a victim of crime, when police would take DNA to confirm an incident took place and check whether it can be linked to a perpetrator. Others will be as part of criminal investigation where a child is the suspect. DNA samples are also taken to conduct criminal paternity tests as part of sexual offence investigations. The taking and retention of DNA from people of all ages is set out clearly under law."

At the moment there are no children under the age of 10 in England & Wales whose DNA is on the National DNA Database.