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DNA To Be Major Weapon In Battle Against Burglary

11 February 2001

DNA To Become Major Weapon In Battle Against Burglary


Justice Minister Phil Goff has announced a major advance in the battle against burglary with the Government to introduce legislation to allow police to seek compulsion orders for DNA testing of burglary suspects.

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill will pave the way for other major changes in the fight against crime including allowing DNA samples to collected by taking mouth swabs.

DNA SAMPLING OF BURGLARY SUSPECTS

"Giving police the power to obtain DNA samples from burglary suspects and using this evidence in criminal proceedings will be a crucial step forward in combating this crime which affects so many New Zealanders.

"The current legislation only gives authorisation to seek a compulsion order to obtain DNA samples for the police database from a person already convicted of burglary.

"This leads to the ridiculous situation that when police find DNA material at the burglary scene and match it to a profile on the databank, they are prohibited from using that match in criminal proceedings against the suspect.

"The new law will mean more burglars will be linked to the scene of their crime and ultimately punished," Mr Goff said.

The Minister said this would be an effective tool for police to continue to improve on the burglary resolution rate. "The current rate of 15.8% is the best achieved by police in 12 years but still means over 80% of burglaries never lead to a conviction.

"Given than the offender's DNA is found at 40% of burglary scenes this new measure will boost the police's ability to secure more convictions," said Mr Goff.

The Minister said there will be clear safeguards to ensure the power to gain DNA samples from burglary suspects is not abused. Strict conditions apply through the process of a High Court compulsion order being required.

USE OF MOUTH SWABS TO OBTAIN DNA SAMPLES

The current legislation provides that only blood samples can be used to obtain DNA profiles. Clearing the way for mouth swabs as an alternative method to collect samples will be a significant improvement.

"The use of mouth swabs will be quicker, less expensive and less invasive. Police report the reason most often given for refusing to provide a blood sample is a fear of needles. People also refuse to give blood on religious grounds," Mr Goff said.

OTHER CRIME FIGHTING MEASURES IN THE BILL

„h The inclusion of DNA from foetal tissue to be allowed to be used for comparison purposes. This would aid police in obtaining rape convictions where a woman conceives following a rape.
„h Include attempts to commit a relevant offence. Currently police are unable to compel a suspect of an attempted offence to provide a sample.
„h Courts will be able to impose more flexible conditions when making a compulsion order for a person to provide a sample.

Mr Goff said the new legislation, which will be introduced in the first half of this year, will be another important step towards the Governments efforts in combating crime, in particular burglary.

"After years of inaction under the previous administration, the Government has shown it is serious about combating burglary. The burglary resolution rate last year was better than at any time in the previous decade, and overall, there was a dramatic reduction in burglary offences, down by almost 8000.

"Burglary is a serious offence which blights the life of so many New Zealanders. Burglars are often involved in other criminal activities and significantly, over two thirds of persistent burglars have at least one conviction for a violent offence against a person. This Bill will reinforce the Justice system in the battle against this pernicious crime," said Mr Goff.

ENDS.


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