The National DNA Database is the biggest in the world, and growing at the rate of 30,000 profiles per year. We’ve long been worried by the number of children on NDNAD, particularly at a time when police targets encourage over-emphasis on low-level crime.
Last year, it took 10 months of hard graft to squeeze figures from the Home Office on the number of children on NDNAD with no convictions or reprimands. It was hardly worth it. The answer is: somewhere between 33,000 and 82,000. It’s the lower figure if we allow an implausibly high replication rate, but looking at the arrest stats for children, the higher number looks nearer the mark.
Then there’s a second category of children who receive reprimands or final warnings for minor offences. These are not classed as a finding of guilt in law. Do we really need to keep the DNA of a child who has damaged a bush whilst romping around with friends?
In today’s Scotsman, an interview with Alec Jeffreys (big daddy of DNA fingerprinting):
Yet he is worried. He fears society has failed to grasp the ethical issues of DNA collection, its potential for abuse and the limitations of genetic analysis.
“The legislation is lagging really rather seriously behind the use of the database,” he said.
“I take the simple view that my genome is mine. Under some circumstances, I’ll allow the state limited access. But prying into my DNA …? I am wholly opposed to that.”