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Naughty children as young as FIVE could be put on DNA database as Government brings in 'baby Asbos'
By STEVE DOUGHTY 17th March 2008
Badly behaved children as young as five should be recorded on the national DNA database, a police chief said yesterday.
Gary Pugh, forensic science director for the Metropolitan Police, said children should be 'targeted' because future offenders can often be picked out at a young age.
The proposals come as the Government looks to crack down on potential young tearaways, introducing 'baby Asbos' for children as young as ten to stop them going off the rails.
DNA testing: A police forensics expert has suggested young children be added to the database
Children's Secretary Ed Balls is to spend £218 million on a scheme targeting children who are considered likely to enter a life of crime.
Up to a thousand of the 'most challenging' children in the UK will be forced to stick to a good behaviour contract or face the threat of a criminal record.
Problems such as drug taking will be tackled by the Family Intervention Projects to stop youngsters going on to receive full-blown anti-social behaviour orders.
Each child will be assigned 'assertive and persistent' case workers to ensure they stay away from criminal activity.
Any that refuse to cooperate would be handed Asbos and Individual Support Orders (ISOs), which are enforceable in a court of law.
Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls said: "Communities want lasting improvements and that means not only stopping bad behaviour when it occurs but also changing it and intervening early to stop bad behaviour spiralling into future offending.
Children's Secretary Ed Balls is to champion intervening early to stop youngsters entering a life of crime
"Recognising these problems doesn't condone bad behaviour - nor is it a soft option.
"In the end where young people and families don't accept help to change their behaviour then the right thing to do is to use Antisocial Behaviour Orders and Individual Support Orders."
Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said early warning signs of potential tearaways included 'poor parenting, lessons skipped, and complaints about behaviour'.
"Intervening early and requiring young people and their parents to address the causes as well as the behaviour itself, will both prevent antisocial behaviour and deal with it more effectively where it does occur," she said.
Mr Balls was forced to acknowledge earlier this month that the ISO scheme had failed to have sufficient impact on tackling the causes of anti-social behaviour.
The plan provoked furious protests from civil liberties groups and critics of Britain's fast-expanding surveillance society.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith signalled that ministers are looking at proposals to bring in a DNA database for children.
Home Office officials said plans to include primary school children on the DNA record would be kept 'under review'. The DNA database includes 4.5 million samples of genetic material, many taken from people who have been arrested but never charged with a crime.
By next year, it is expected that 1.5 million of the samples will be from youngsters aged between ten and 18.
But forensics officer Mr Pugh, who speaks on DNA for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that signs of future criminality could be found in children as young as five.
He told the Observer newspaper: "If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long term, the benefits of targeting young people are extremely large. You could argue the younger the better."
He added: "Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime, others won't. We have to find out who are possibly going to be the biggest threats to society." Labour has long accepted the idea that children's lives go wrong very early.
The £10billion Sure Start system of child centres aims to help those families whose children are most likely to fail when they grow older. The Government is also setting up a town hall database of education and medical information for all children.
But the idea of putting naughty five year-olds on the DNA database produced a blast of criticism.
Jill Kirby, director of the centre-Right think-tank Centre for Policy Studies, said: "This is entirely in line with the Government's obsessions with building up large databases with everybody on them.
"This is another example of the Government telling us that in order to be safe, we have to be on a database.
"But they have an appalling record for handling data and the usefulness of DNA records is increasingly in doubt." Shami Chakrabarti, of the pressure group Liberty, said: "My five-year- old likes sword-fighting and Power Rangers.
"If this idea goes ahead, he will be coming back from school one day with his name down on a criminal intelligence database. I am very cross about that." A Home Office spokesman said: "There are no Government plans to extend the use of the national DNA database, as to do so would raise significant practical and ethical issues.
"We will however continue to keep this under review and listen to the views of those on all sides of the debate." ACPO distanced itself from Mr Pugh's views and said on this occasion he had been speaking for himself, not the association.
Changes to the way the database is run must have public support if they are to be effective, a spokesman said.
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