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    Angry Blair wants to monitor all children for signs of criminality


    Blair wants to monitor all children for signs of criminality

    LONDON - Tony Blair faced charges of taking a further step towards turning Britain into a "surveillance state" as he set out plans to monitor all children for signs of criminality, to allow police to collect more DNA samples and to expand the use of CCTV cameras.

    He also announced proposals to restrict the activities of career criminals after they are released from prison and to review the operation of the police service.

    Critics of the wide-ranging plan said it amounted to a further erosion of civil liberties under the cover of fighting crime.

    Most controversial was a proposal to "establish universal checks throughout a child's development" to help "identify those at most at risk of offending".

    The tests could take place at key moments in a child's life, including the move from primary to secondary school, but it was unclear what form they would take.

    Downing Street also suggested health visitors could even intervene before the birth of youngsters judged at risk of falling into a life of crime. They could regularly check on "disadvantaged mothers from pregnancy until the child is aged 2', it said in a policy review document published yesterday.

    It also raises the idea of a further expansion of the DNA database, which already holds more than 4 million samples, proportionately far more than in any Western country. The database could be widened to include "all suspected offenders who come into contact with the police".

    Downing Street calls for the introduction of mobile fingerprint readers for police and "more sophisticated CCTV", including the use of technology that checks images against pictures of known terrorists and criminals.

    The plans raised the prospect of ending the drive for ever-tougher sentences for offenders, replacing them with more emphasis on rehabilitation.

    Blair called for a new drive against the hard core of criminals responsible for a high proportion of offences. They would be put on "prolific offender licences" - punishable by up to three years in jail if breached - requiring them to report regularly to probation staff and restricting their activities.

    "We have to ensure that, when people leave prison, they do not rebound straight back in. These people have serious problems and targeting the offender means taking those problems seriously," Blair said.

    His plans also suggested giving police more power to seize criminals' property.

    Businesses will be encouraged to make their products "crime proof", using methods including the introduction of fingerprint activation on MP3 players.

    Courts could be ranked according to performance, with poor-performing courts facing measures to force improvements

    The Prime Minister announced a review of the police service would be conducted by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan. He will try to find ways of reducing bureaucracy, stepping up neighbourhood policing and managing resources more effectively. He will look to make the police more responsive and accountable.

    Phil Booth, spokesman for the No2ID campaign group, said: "These plans amount to surveillance from the womb to the grave, turning the caring into organs of a repressive state."

    Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "Are we talking about supporting and educating young people or bar-coding babies at birth?"

    David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said the plans to test children looked "like the nanny state gone mad". He said: "This could amount to nothing more than ineffective and costly intervention in the lives of innocent people with no criminal background."

    Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This demonstrates the Prime Minister's obsession with big centralised databases. These databases are expensive, threaten our privacy and remain vulnerable to organised crime."

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