By Matt Blake | Daily Mail | Apr. 29, 2012
Tens of thousands of children as young as ten are having their DNA swabbed and stored by police forces across the country, even if they are not charged with any offence.
One force admitted taking samples from more than 14,000 youngsters between the ages of ten and 17 over a period of three years.
Devon and Cornwall police say 14,383 children were arrested between 2007 and 2010 and that DNA was taken from the vast majority of them.
And those DNA records can be kept until the suspect reaches the unlikely age of 100 years old.
Not all police forces take DNA samples from suspects of crimes, but under Home Office guidelines they can legally take them from anyone over the age of criminal responsibility, which is currently ten years old.
Prison reform and children rights’ campaigners describe the revelation as ‘bonkers’ and said the DNA details should not be kept. They say while there are no official figures to confirm, the number of youngsters whose DNA has been stored could have run into the hundreds of thousands.
According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, 13,000 children between the ages of 9-13 were held in a police cell overnight, most of whom were innocent.
After an arrest, police are allowed but not legally required to take DNA from mouth swabs, hair or blood samples regardless of whether that person is charged with an offence.
And they are allowed to keep the DNA profile and fingerprints even if a case is dropped.
A 14 year old boy from Paignton, Devon, was recently arrested but not charged in connection with hacking into his school’s computer system.
He said: 'When the officer said it would be stored in the system for 100 years and it would be stored on an international database, it was a scary prospect.'
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described it as ‘bonkers’.
She said: 'Devon and Cornwall are just one of 43 police forces in the country that has the powers to retain DNA for children who are arrested, but never charged with a crime.
'There are children whose DNA will be on this gargantuan database for the next 100 years, shared with Interpol when all the while they are innocent. Surely the point of this database is to hold the DNA of the most dangerous people. This is police snooping into the lives of our sons and daughters.'
Paolo Uccellari, from the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said youngsters should not be penalised as a result of bad actions from their youth.
'We think that when children come into contact with the police, they’re not fully developed. That should not affect them for the rest of their life. They shouldn’t be stigmatised for that.'
Devon and Cornwall Police said the processing of suspects was the same for juveniles as it is for adults.
The force said: 'Police currently lawfully collect DNA from any person over the age of criminal responsibility - with is ten years or older - who’s arrested for a recordable offence designated by the Home Office.
'A Freedoms Bill is currently making its way through Parliament which is due to be published imminently which will have new guidelines of what information is retained by the police.'
A spokesman said when the new guidelines are published, any records that fall outside those new guidelines for retention can be removed retrospectively from the database.