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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

27 AUG 2008

Police will have access to child protection database to tackle crime

A database containing the data of 11 million children in England will be used by police to tackle crime.

The ContactPoint database contains names, ages, addresses and information of all children under 18 as well as information about their parents, schools and medical records. The database was announced following the death of Victoria Climbié, who was murdered after various opportunities to intervene were missed by the authorities.

The £224 million database is intended to prevent children slipping through the safety net by allowing social workers, schools, GPs and other professionals to share information if they suspect a child is in danger. But it now appears that police will be able to use the database to conduct searches for evidence of criminal activity. Police will not have access to case information on children but will be able to find out whether they have had contact with a Youth Offending Team or services such as drug rehabilitation.

The database is due to be launched in autumn this year, despite fears about the Government's poor reputation for storing electronic data. ContactPoint will be continuously updated until a child's 18th birthday. The stored information will then remain on the system for a further six years before it is destroyed. Those who have learning difficulties or who are in care will remain on the live system until they turn 25, so their archived records will be available until they are 31.

The Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesperson in the House of Lords, Baroness Miller, described the system as shocking".

"It's exactly the definition of a police state. The police will have the details of a whole generation for so-called crime prevention," she added.

"It raises a lot of issues and we haven't had a debate in Parliament about it."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The purpose of ContactPoint is not crime detection, it is to help improve services to children, including safeguarding vulnerable children.

"To access ContactPoint for the purposes of prevention or detection of crime or for the prosecution of offenders, police would have to make a special request directly to the Secretary of State or local authority and make a case for disclosure."

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