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DNA Legislation Enhances Crime-Fighting Weapon

27 May 2002

DNA Legislation Enhances Vital Crime-Fighting Weapon

Justice Minister Phil Goff will introduce legislation tomorrow to significantly increase the use of DNA profiling as an investigative and evidential tool for effective crime fighting.

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill will create major changes to the use of DNA, widening the net to catch criminals.

“The legislation will help ensure criminals are brought to justice. The Bill makes several changes including;

- Extending compulsory DNA testing to serious offenders currently in prison who were convicted of relevant offences prior to the law change allowing for testing in 1996.

- Giving police the power to obtain DNA samples from burglary suspects.

- Allowing for the use of mouth swabs to collect samples. Currently only blood samples can be used.

“Extending the legislation to apply to criminals convicted of a relevant offence prior to 1996 means some of the most heinous offenders behind bars will now have to have their DNA included in the database.

“This will mean 400 of our most serious criminals convicted prior to 1996 and still in prison will be compulsorily DNA tested.

“I believe that allowing such criminals DNA profile to be obtained will result in the resolution of previously unsolved crimes.

“Giving police the power to obtain samples from burglary suspects will provide a real boost to cracking down on this crime. The current legislation only gives authorisation to obtain samples for the police database from a person already convicted of burglary.

“While the police have made pleasing progress in burglary resolution rates, the fact that DNA is found at 40 percent of burglary scenes will significantly increase their ability to resolve cases.

“Allowing for mouth swabs to take DNA samples as an alternative to taking blood will mean the process is less invasive and less expensive. Technology now allows buccal samples to provide DNA profiles of the same quality as those derived from blood samples.

“The Bill strikes a balance between extending the use of DNA as a valuable investigative tool in the fight against crime and the recognition and protection of personal rights. While non-consensual taking of samples encroaches on personal rights, with adequate safeguards in place, there are compelling community interests in obtaining DNA samples. These include effective crime control, protecting the innocent and discovering the truth.

“These changes will enhance the fight against crime. This legislation is further evidence of the Government’s commitment to improving the safety of New Zealanders and cracking down on criminals,” Mr Goff said.

Ends


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