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Petty crimes, 150,000 kids and a million new records

Police DNA database under fire

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Have you ever used one of those machines at a fairground or on a seaside pier? You know, the ones that stretch a penny out, imprinting it with a touristy message and the date of your holiday?

Well, get yourself down to the local nick and hand over your fingerprints and a DNA sample immediately, because defacing a coin is one of 5,000 offences that will qualify you for inclusion on the Police National Computer, according to a report from The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Other qualifying crimes include picking wildflowers, cruelty to a badger and attempting to kill yourself.

Deletion of a record will remain "exceptional", and only at the discretion of a chief of police. ACPO sets out guidelines for cases where this discretion might be exercised, for example in the case of an unlawful arrest or sampling, or when it is "established beyond reasonable doubt that no offence existed".

Which sounds rather like "guilty until proven innocent" to us, but what would we know?

ACPO says it has now clarified the difference between records being held for police work and records being held for other purposes. The report says that access to the records of anyone not convicted of an offence will be restricted to police only, but that the record will not be destroyed.

"The record will be retained on PNC until that person is deemed to have reached 100 years of age," the report says.

The PNC now contains over 4.5 million records, and according to the Liberal Democrats more than one million new names have been added to the database in the last ten months. Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg MP said in a statement that more than 150,000 children under 16 have now been profiled and their records stored, adding:

"These figures underline the shocking extent to which this database has intruded, often without parental consent, into the lives of our children. Thousands of these children will have been found guilty of no crime, yet samples of their DNA will remain on file for life.

"The disturbing and illiberal policy of adding a child's most personal information to a massive government computer system, simply on the grounds of an accusation, must stop immediately." ®

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