By Cara Sulieman
POLICE in Scotland will start collecting and storing the genetic information of children as young as eight under new powers granted by the government.
Under the new Criminal Justice and Licensing Act the DNA and fingerprints of anyone under-17 can be kept for up to three years if they are found guilty of a violent or sexual offence.
And the laws have caused outrage amongst human rights campaigners who are calling on the government to make sure the rules aren’t abused.
In amendments to the act last month, ministers waved through the rules to allow any kids who admit to or are found guilty of violent crimes before a Children’s Panel to have their data stored for three years.
A sheriff can then decide to extend the time by a further two years.
Dr Geraint Bevan, the spokesman for human rights group No2ID Scotland, warned against the move – saying it shouldn’t be used as a punishment.
He said: “As a matter of principle, DNA and fingerprint data should not be taken from children except where there are exceptional reasons for doing so to ensure the safety of the general public.
“Cases which are not subject to criminal proceedings should not therefore result in the addition of children’s data to forensic databases.
“The taking and retention of DNA samples and profiles should not be used as a punishment in itself, but instead only where there is a clear public benefit.
“Consequently, retaining samples to ‘reflect the gravity of an offence’ is not a sufficient justification for assaulting the rights of a child.
“If the Scottish Government decides otherwise, then the list of offences for which such action is taken should be defined as narrowly as possible, to include only the most serious offences.
“For instance, it would be wrong for police to retain the DNA of two 15-year-old teenagers who were engaging in consensual sex.
“Another concern we might have is that DNA could be taken from a child after he or she has appeared in front of a children’s hearing.
“The concern is that children many not have had access to legal representation before their personal data is taken, and they may not be fully aware of any consequences.”
But a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said that legal representation was available for children.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “In criminal cases, children may well have DNA taken without a solicitor being present.
“Legal representation is available in children’s hearings to enable a child to effectively participate in that hearing or where it might be necessary to make a compulsory supervision order including secure accommodation authorisation.”