Government admits holding baby’s DNA

The government has admitted it is holding the DNA sample of a baby, aged under one year old.

Alan Campbell, parliamentary under-secretary of state, told MPs yesterday that the government had retained the baby’s DNA sample, but had not put it on the controversial national DNA database.

“The youngest person whose DNA sample has been retained, but not profiled on the [database], is aged under one,” he said.

The Home Office later said the sample was "volunteered" as part of an "ongoing investigation".

DNA is held on some children, but those under 10 are not placed on the database. Samples of DNA from those under 10s are supposed to be taken with the consent of their parents or guardians.

The government originally placed DNA profiles of 70 people aged under 10 on the database, but last December promised that all of them would be removed. It is not clear whether the data has yet been deleted.

Yesterday, Jacqui Smith - who had for long argued the police case for a DNA database, as well as the controversial ID cards scheme and a database of all phone calls and emails - announced her resignation as home secretary following a raft of bad publicity over her expenses.

Last month, the government announced another DNA database U-turn, saying it would delete the profiles of 850,000 innocent people, of all ages.

The government was forced to climb down following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that stated keeping the data of those acquitted - but never charged - breached human rights. The Home Office and the police maintain that the data is necessary to solving crime.

Civil liberties groups threatened legal action, saying the climb down did not go far enough. DNA profiles for those arrested but not convicted over minor offences will remain for six years, or 12 years in cases of serious violent or sexual crimes. The database currently holds files on 4.5 million people.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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