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Crime and punishment

Graham Smith | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I'm hoping to get a story on Good Morning Devon shortly about police collecting DNA samples from children. I think you'll be able to hear it if you listen to Matt Woodley on BBC Radio Devon from 6am on Thursday.

What I've found out so far is that in Devon and Cornwall, you're more likely to have your DNA sample taken by the police than you are to be a victim of crime (69/1,000 compared with 62/1,000) and that in a three year period, Devon and Cornwall police arrested more than 14,300 juveniles. More than 20 of those arrests involved children as young as 10.

Because the vast majority of those juveniles are never charged with an offence - but dealt with by way of caution or reprimand - they are, in the eyes of the law, innocent. Yet their DNA sample will stay on an Interpol database until those children have reached the age of 100.

I hadn't appreciated until now that local police forces are free to interpret their own policies on DNA. This could become even more interesting when we get to the Police Commissioner elections in November.


  • Comment number 1.

    As a matter of information, accepting a caution is an effective admission of guilt in most cases, therefore not technically "innocent". As a rule of thumb it must be a minor offence, there must be sufficient evidence to reasonably expect a conviction, and the offender must admit the offence.
    It doesn't change the force of your argument but I know you will want to get it right!

  • Comment number 2.

    Lets be clear, the Police aren't going out and about collecting DNA from our children at Primary school! DNA is taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence. The young man who appeared on Spotlight, today 26/4/2012, was apparently reprimanded for an offence. Mr Smith is inaccurate when he say that persons cautioned or reprimanded are 'innocent in the eyes of the law', quite the contrary, these are admissions of guilt by the offender. The young man in the report stated he was scared and worried how the experience would effect him for the future. How exactly will this effect his future? . The only time this would cause an issue is if a person whose DNA had been taken committed a further offence. Exactly what people think the Police will do with DNA apart from solve crime is beyond me and, frankly, should be greater focus of this debate. If a youngster doesn’t want DNA taken don’t commit Crime – however small! Lets trust our Police to do the job rather than climbing on the Civil Liberty soapbox about something that has not really affected anyone! As a footnote to delete the swabs has the potential to cost more than keeping them so that argument is also flawed. So come on Graham lets focus on how DNA can help our South West community too!


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