April 23, 2024

British police moot DNA testing for 5-year-old potential crims

Security fears prompt controversial proposal

Tom Cruise in Minority ReportYou may have seen Minority Report, a Spielberg film about cops in the year 2054 who arrest criminals before they commit their crimes. Something similar has been mooted by a leading British police officer: adding DNA samples from misbehaving children as young as five to a national database in case they commit crimes in later life. "If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long-term the benefits of targeting younger people are extremely large," Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences at Scotland Yard told the Observer. "You could argue the younger the better. Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime; others won’t. We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to society."

His suggestion is deeply controversial, but illustrates how interested British authorities are in using genetic technology to quash crime and terrorism. Since 2004, police have been authorised to file away DNA samples from anyone over 10 who has been arrested -– even if they are not charged or convicted and even if they are found innocent. "The number of unsolved crimes says we are not sampling enough of the right people," Mr Pugh says — although the UK already has the largest DNA database in Europe. ~ Observer, Mar 16