Outrage as DNA profile of seven-month-old baby is added to register
UK Daily Mail | September 16, 2007
The DNA of a seven-month-old baby girl has been added to the police's national database designed to identify criminals.
The disclosure reignited the row over the growth of Britain's DNA register, which is the biggest in the world.
Human rights groups accuse the Government of building a genetic record of the entire UK population by stealth.
It was revealed this year that more than 100,000 DNA samples had been taken from children, aged ten to 16, who have never been charged or convicted of any crime.
Now the news that a baby's genetic profile is stored on the system saw leading campaigners react with horror and disgust.
She is one of 47 children under ten whose DNA has been recorded and will be retained by the police until after their deaths.
Civil liberties organisation Liberty said the baby girl's case was "a chilling example of how out of control the DNA database has become".
Children can be added to the register only with their parents' agreement, but Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "This baby has not given her consent to be on this criminal database. Who knows the circumstances that led to her parent or guardian agreeing to put her profile on the system?"
She added: "DNA is the most intimate material. It can be used to identify who your parents are, and indicate your life expectancy.
"Should the police be able to keep this information about this little girl – and thousands like her – forever?"
Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said that the case was "unbelievable".
The former Europe Minister added: "This is not what this system was set up for and I will be demanding an explanation from Ministers."
The Mail on Sunday has learned that the baby's DNA sample was taken earlier this year by West Yorkshire Police.
According to the National Policing Improvement Agency, it was loaded on to the database "with parental/guardian consent as a volunteer victim".
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed they had taken the baby's DNA, but said it was at the request of West Midlands Police.
However, the Birmingham-based force refused to discuss the circumstances of the case.
Amazingly, a spokeswoman claimed they could not find any details without the child's name or date of birth.
The information about the baby girl's record came out after a Freedom of Information request by The Mail on Sunday which revealed that DNA samples of 47 children under ten were kept on the system.
Gavin McKinnon, of the NPIA, said profiles of 38 children were put on the register by police in England and Wales and nine by forces in Scotland.
Two of the English and Welsh samples were taken "following police contact", the others were "volunteered with written consent of a parent or guardian".
He added: "Separate written consent is also needed to load the sample on to the database."
In Scotland, where the age of criminal responsibility is eight, the nine samples were provided by children who had been arrested for an offence.
Mr McKinnon said that in England and Wales "officers cannot take samples from a child under ten without a parent or guardian's consent."
He added: "Volunteer samples for upload to the database can play an important role in an investigation."
They are normally taken to "eliminate an individual's profile" – for example, witnesses at a crime scene – and where there is a "need to establish a family link as part of an investigation".
A Home Office spokeswoman said samples from children under ten were only taken and retained on the database "with explicit written consent" of their parents.
She said: "Anyone can apply to the chief constable of the force that took the sample to ask for it to be removed."
But civil rights campaigners say that, in practice, it is very difficult to get your DNA wiped off the register.
Last week lawyers from Liberty finally won a six-month battle with Avon and Somerset Constabulary to have the DNA of an innocent 13-year-old boy removed from the national database. He had been falsely accused of writing graffiti.
The database permanently retains the DNA of approximately four million people.
This month Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Sedley called for it to be expanded to include everyone living in or visiting the UK.
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