North Yorkshire Police Take DNA Samples From 13 Children Every Week
8:33am 20th May 2013
North Yorkshire Police take DNA samples from 13 children every week, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today.
New research by the charity has found that North Yorkshire officers took swabs from 681 boys and girls aged 17 or under during 2011.
They included 27 primary school-age children – ten 10-year-olds and seventeen 11-year-olds.
Across England and Wales, police took swabs from almost 54,000 boys and girls aged 17 or under during 2011 say the Howard League.
They add that 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, say the Howard League.
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.
In 2010, officers took almost 70,000 DNA samples from under-18s, including four from children who were younger than 10 – the age of criminal responsibility, say the Howard League.
About 30 per cent of the child DNA samples taken by police come from girls, according to the Howard League.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “When public money is tight and police forces are shrinking, it is disappointing to see valuable crime-fighting resources being wasted on taking DNA samples from thousands of innocent children while serious offences go undetected.
“Children who get into trouble with the police are usually just up to mischief. Treating so many like hardened criminals by taking their DNA seems excessive.
“We welcome the government’s decision to stop storing innocent people’s DNA indefinitely, but it remains unclear how this will affect the number of children having their DNA taken needlessly.”
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.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “DNA is a very important and successful tool used in the detection of crimes, some of which have been solved years after they were committed.
“DNA is stored in accordance with Home Office guidelines to help solve crimes and bring offenders to justice.”
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