- The police are to set up a secret database of children
as young as three who they fear might grow up to become criminals.
Youngsters who behave badly or commit trivial misdemeanours will be put
on the confidential register so that they can be monitored and supervised
The controversial initiative is to be pioneered in 11 London boroughs from
March and then expanded nationally. Any child who is thought to be at risk
of committing a crime by the police, schools or social services, will be
put on the database.
Children involved in cheekiness, minor vandalism and causing nuisances,
will be targeted under the scheme.
Their progress will then be monitored at school and on the streets by special
squads of police officers and social workers, even though the children
have not committed a crime and will not have been warned that they are
Ian Blair, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that
the register was needed because of a rise in youngsters turning to violent
The plan grew out of the Damilola Taylor murder investigation on a grim
council estate in south London last year. There detectives came across
dozens of wild and unruly children who - outside the scope of the present
law - were in danger of becoming criminals.
Mr Blair said: "We have identified 11 London boroughs where youth
crime is growing most significantly.
- "With partners in those boroughs, we intend to create
an intelligence nexus which will hold sensitive information about large
numbers of children, many of whom have not yet and probably will not drift
into criminal activity."
He admitted: "This is pretty revolutionary stuff. There will be lots
of worries but as long as it is understood that the purpose of holding
this information is to ensure that we should collectively intervene to
prevent children from becoming criminal I think that it will be accepted."
He said that schools and social services already had information about
young children in danger of becoming criminals but at the moment they did
not share this with the police.
- He said that the scheme had been inspired by the murder
of Damilola, 10, in Southwark. Several youngsters have now been charged
with his murder.
Mr Blair said: "With no specific or necessary connection to the individuals
charged, the inquiry team found that in some parts of Southwark there was
a feeding chain leading to rampant criminality, a mixture of abuse, victimisation
- "Children who had, Fagin-like, been coerced and
taught to steal, children who rose to prominence within their peer group
by dint of theft and violence.
"It is not an exaggeration to note that, for some of these children,
street gangs provided a safer and more caring environment than their homes
Mr Blair, who has unveiled his plans to the Government's Youth Justice
Board, said the inquiry team found evidence of children who had been abused
at home and who were subject to bullying and muggings at school and close
He said it had always been thought improper to share information but it
was now essential because this could sometimes prevent crimes being committed
- He added: "We are aware of examples from within
London where caring professionals have been told in confidence by children
that they have been victims of quite serious crimes."
The proposal is being examined by Elizabeth France, the Information Commissioner,
but the police are confident that it will not breach existing laws. Last
night, Liberty, the organisation that campaigns for civil liberties, expressed
concern about the plan.
Roger Bingham, the Liberty spokesman, said: "We have a number of concerns
about the proposals. For a start, what kind of behaviour will result in
being put on this register?
"Who will have access to it, and who will decide whether children
go on it or come off it? The aims of the idea might be to reduce crime
but there are serious libertarian worries."