Alex Massie

Presumption of Innocence? You’re Having a Laugh Mate...

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The most dismal aspect of this, shall we say, innovative proposal is that it is not in the least bit surprising. Equally, one ought not to be astonished when politicians proclaim it a perfectly capital notion.

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.

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.

'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.'

I assume that this would only apply to England & Wales, not Scotland, but still... (Coming soon, this Labour attack: SNP Make Scotland a Sanctuary for Teenage Criminals and Future Terrorists). As Tim says "Minority Report was a dystopian vision, not an operating manual."

How often must it be said that the mere fact that a policy might work - in this instance potentially making it easier for the police to catch criminals in the future - is not in and of itself a sufficient justification for its implementation*?

*Clearly this applies to all sorts of dreadful legislation. Even if you think the state has a legitimate interest in, say, reducing the prevalence of smoking (though, obviously only up to the point that the Treasury starts losing money) you should oppose the blanket bans upon smoking in bars and restaurants as a grotesque and unjustified infringement of property rights. Ditto most of Britain's gun, drug and prostitution laws. One could go on...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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