No hiding from justice ... House passes DNA Bill


November 20, 2015
Delroy Chuck

The DNA bill, which allows for the compulsory taking of DNA samples from suspects and convicted persons, is making its way through the nation's parliament, and may become law shortly.

The House of Representatives passed the Bill on Tuesday, paving the way for it to be sent to the review chamber - the Senate - for consideration. If it is passed in the Senate, the bill will next go the the governor general who will sign it into law.

"It is a watershed and critical piece of legislation," said Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, adding, "It takes away from persons who have committed serious crimes the opportunity to hide from justice."

"The more we read and listen, to our news today, the more we recognise how important it is," the attorney general said.

He noted, too, that DNA is not something that can be seen with the naked eye and sought to allay fears that it is something that can be stolen.

"Storage of DNA samples does not mean that anybody can break in and decode your DNA. It requires not only complex scientific knowledge, but sophisticated equipment," Atkinson said.

Under the proposed DNA legislation, non-intimate samples such as saliva, hair, other than pubic, nail or buccal swab can be taken from a suspect who has been detained for a relevant offence, for the purpose of generation of a DNA profile, in respect of the person to be entered into national database.

The bill makes provisions for the taking of DNA samples from suspects in specified crimes such as rapes and carnal abuse. Samples may also be taken for elimination purposes. The bill also has provisions for the management of the samples and specifies how samples may be obtained and kept.

Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting said the bill is a critical weapon in the fight against crime. He said, too, that case law settled in England and the European Court of Human Rights, and courts in the United States, have held that the taking of bodily samples does not breach the right against self- incrimination.

Delroy Chuck, opposition spokesman on justice, warned against the bill being unconstitutional, arguing that the provision for the use of reasonable force to take a sample, flies in the face of the law.

"The person may well say I am not giving a sample because he knows he is the offender, so he refuses on the very ground of self-incrimination. We have to be careful," Chuck said.

He said use of reasonable force to take the sample, which could include a police officer restraining a suspect in order to get a buccal swab, or the forceful plucking of hair, may be a breach of the person's constitutional rights.

Force is to be used in recovering non-intimate samples when consent is refused.

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