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DNA changes great news for Police, says Goff

DNA changes great news for Police, says Goff

An overhaul of DNA profiling laws will greatly enhance the Police's ability to catch serious criminals and to resolve burglaries, Justice Minister Phil Goff said today.

"The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Act, which passed through Parliament today, significantly widens the net to catch criminals through DNA profiling," Mr Goff said.

"It is a comprehensive overhaul of the 1995 Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act, and further evidence of the government’s strong and unwavering commitment to fight crime on many fronts.

"The range of offences for which suspects or convicted persons may be liable to provide a DNA sample has been extended to cover crimes punishable by at least seven years' jail, or any attempt or conspiracy to commit such crimes.

"Police will now have the power to obtain samples from burglary suspects, which is an important extension to the existing law.

"Currently Police cannot compel a person whose DNA profile is matched with a burglary scene sample to give a fresh suspect sample, with the result that known burglars can escape punishment.

"Burglary is a serious crime. It is invasive and often a precursor to much more serious violent and sexual offending. Labour campaigned on a promise to allow the use of DNA as an investigative tool to cover burglary, and this Act delivers on that commitment.

"The incidence of burglary has already dropped significantly since the government came into office, due largely to the substantial investment in police numbers and the police budget over the last four years. Resolution rates are up. There is no doubt that allowing the use of DNA samples from burglary suspects will further improve this situation.

"Compulsory testing for databank purposes will also be extended to serious offenders convicted prior to the introduction of DNA testing who are still in jail.

“Many of the country's worst offenders currently behind bars will now have their DNA included in the database. This may help Police to resolve some unsolved crimes."

Mr Goff said the Act allowed Police to take mouth, or buccal, samples as technological advances meant they now provided the same quality profile as blood. Buccal samples are less invasive and less expensive.

For a broad range of serious offences, Police will be able to request that a child suspect, with a parent’s consent, provides a buccal sample.

Police will no longer need to go to court to obtain permission to obtain a sample from a convicted person. However a safeguard put in place allows notified people to request a judicial hearing if they believe they are not liable to provide the sample.

"This legislation strikes an appropriate balance between legitimate law enforcement and recognition of fundamental personal rights.

"I am confident it will greatly enhance Police investigative powers without unreasonably interfering with personal rights," Mr Goff said.

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