Another Dalek in the TARDIS

March 16th, 2008

Via the Guardian/Observer

Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain’s most senior police forensics expert.

Hmm, eligible, how grand – sounds almost postive. Now shall we count the number of ways a primary school child may exhibit criminal tendencies? No, let’s not suffice to say that young children are at a stage of life where they are full of energy, interact in the world in ways that are ‘irrational’ and ‘unlearned’, basically they make ‘mistakes’ as part of growing up. It is not a reason to target them as future criminals.

We can also think of further injustices in how this would be implemented – children of ‘high-risk’ adults would receive preferential ‘eligibility’ so presumably children of poor brown skinned muslim immigrants would be in there ASAP.

Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences at Scotland Yard and the new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said a debate was needed on how far Britain should go in identifying potential offenders, given that some experts believe it is possible to identify future offending traits in children as young as five.

Why is a debate needed? Perhaps there should be a debate on how best to behead forensic police officers, after all ‘We Have The Technology’.
Some experts? How large a percentage and what research have they done, did the ‘experts’ say that criminal behaviour could be educated out or otherwise removed without the need to submit their DNA to a criminal database.

Does Gary Pugh even believe in ‘free will’?

‘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,’ said Pugh. ‘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.’

But what does this have to do with DNA databases? In any case the vast majority of criminal activity can be dealt with without recourse to DNA profiling

Pugh admitted that the deeply controversial suggestion raised issues of parental consent, potential stigmatisation and the role of teachers in identifying future offenders, but said society needed an open, mature discussion on how best to tackle crime before it took place. There are currently 4.5 million genetic samples on the UK database – the largest in Europe – but police believe more are required to reduce crime further. ‘The number of unsolved crimes says we are not sampling enough of the right people,’ Pugh told The Observer. However, he said the notion of universal sampling – everyone being forced to give their genetic samples to the database – is currently prohibited by cost and logistics.

Pugh thinks that he (and his computer profiling) is in a better position to control a child’s future than the parents and teachers of the child – people with real human interaction. Having said that in the future any teacher is likely to have submitted to the NIR database (as being a person in a ‘position of trust’) so probably not not a reliable judge of character and rights.

Hardly gratifying to know Pugh’s only real concern about enmeshing the whole population is limited to cost and logistics, perhaps his ‘debate’ is only intended to further raise the profile of DNA databasing in government departments.

Civil liberty groups condemned his comments last night by likening them to an excerpt from a ‘science fiction novel’. One teaching union warned that it was a step towards a ‘police state’.

So many ‘steps toward’ over the last few years maybe we got to the zoo and haven’t noticed the lion closing its jaws around the hand of the fools offering snacks through the railings.

Pugh’s call for the government to consider options such as placing primary school children who have not been arrested on the database is supported by elements of criminological theory. A well-established pattern of offending involves relatively trivial offences escalating to more serious crimes. Senior Scotland Yard criminologists are understood to be confident that techniques are able to identify future offenders.

And why does Pugh want to initiate ‘debate’ with the government rather than ‘the country’? Because he knows he needs the knuckle of POWER to enforce his hideous ideas.

A recent report from the think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) called for children to be targeted between the ages of five and 12 with cognitive behavioural therapy, parenting programmes and intensive support. Prevention should start young, it said, because prolific offenders typically began offending between the ages of 10 and 13. Julia Margo, author of the report, entitled ‘Make me a Criminal’, said: ‘You can carry out a risk factor analysis where you look at the characteristics of an individual child aged five to seven and identify risk factors that make it more likely that they would become an offender.’ However, she said that placing young children on a database risked stigmatising them by identifying them in a ‘negative’ way.

Well this may or may not be true but it has nothing to do with DNA databases

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, denounced any plan to target youngsters. ‘Whichever bright spark at Acpo thought this one up should go back to the business of policing or the pastime of science fiction novels,’ she said. ‘The British public is highly respectful of the police and open even to eccentric debate, but playing politics with our innocent kids is a step too far.’

From the mistress of gross understatement this should be read as a damning condemnation!


Pugh, though, believes that measures to identify criminals early would save the economy huge sums – violent crime alone costs the UK £13bn a year – and significantly reduce the number of offences committed. However, he said the British public needed to move away from regarding anyone on the DNA database as a criminal and accepted it was an emotional issue.

Thus hoist by his own petard, this idiot shows that he wants a database that is NOT a criminal but a general databse, this man doesn’t believe in the principle of ‘innocent until PROVEN guilty’, he doesn’t care that a police database of the general population is an erosion of habeas corpus and the similar rights that have had to be fought for.

‘Fingerprints, somehow, are far less contentious,’ he said. ‘We have children giving their fingerprints when they are borrowing books from a library.’

And this is Right?

Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the DNA database after being arrested will have reached around 1.5 million this time next year. Since 2004 police have had the power to take DNA samples from anyone over the age of 10 who is arrested, regardless of whether they are later charged, convicted, or found to be innocent.

And this is Right?

I repeat we are already at the zoo today, not tomorrow – and YOU are there too.

Concern over the issue of civil liberties will be further amplified by news yesterday that commuters using Oyster smart cards could have their movements around cities secretly monitored under new counter-terrorism powers being sought by the security services.

Of course this is further generalised surveillance that will not stop anything related to terrorism, there is no underground station or bus stop called ‘how to do jihad’, nor ‘semtex R us’, nor ‘At the age of five I spat on a dog’.

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