European database to trap paedophiles

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The Independent Online
A Europe-wide DNA database containing details of convicted child sex offenders is being proposed to help counteract the activities of paedophiles.

The Government's interest in a cross-border database, containing the unique genetic fingerprint of convicted offenders, has grown following the successful use of the British version. It has been successfully used 2,000 times in 18 months and is achieving identifications at the rate of 100 a week.

Home Office minister David Maclean revealed that Britain is studying the feasibility of a European DNA database for convicted child sex offenders in a letter to Baroness Josie Farrington, a leading campaigner for better safeguards for children.

The British database was set up in 1995 and many campaigners in child protection as well as the police believe that it is a major weapon in the battle against paedophiles.

A Europe-wide register of missing children and a recording system for children who have been abused are also now being urged on the Government by the NSPCC. A European checking system for the background of care workers has also been proposed.

In his letter to Baroness Farrington, Mr Maclean says: "In its first 18 months of operation the database has proven itself to be a valuable tool in the fight against crime. The database can link suspects with a scene of crime and can identify serial offences by linking two or more crime scenes. To date there have more than 2,000 matches, with identification being made at the rate of approximately 100 a week."

He added: "We are also attracted to the concept of a European DNA database for paedophiles. This could help in the detection of cross-border sex offences committed against children. Such a database might be extended to include additional information, for example details of convictions, and therefore form the basis of a more general European paedophile register."

A new NSPCC report being finalised makes 20 recommendations on child care in Europe, including an EU recording system for children who have been abused and for whom there are ongoing concerns. The report also proposes the establishment of a European child sex offender register, with both home and work addresses of offenders.

n Detective Inspector Terry Oates, who is leading the inquiry into allegations of sex abuse of children at homes in Cheshire, has been invited to speak at a conference in Belgium. Mr Oates, who declined to comment, has been invited as one of the UK's leading specialists in child abuse investigations. The Cheshire inquiry is the biggest abuse investigation in Britain.