No confidence in police if they bully youths
14 June 2006
No confidence in police if they bully youths to give DNA
The case of a 17-year-old student who was allegedly coerced into giving a DNA sample to police in return for a waived traffic fine and without giving the proper consent raises serious concerns about police attitudes towards young people, Green Party Youth Affairs Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.
It was reported this morning that Auckland teenager Richard Barnes gave a DNA sample to police on 1 June after being pulled over for a minor driving offence. He was told that he was subject to a $400 fine, but that this would be waived if he agreed to give a sample. Although anyone giving a DNA sample is required to sign a four page consent form, Richard Barnes says he was never given a form to sign.
"If these facts are correct, this case raises major concerns about police attitudes to young people," Mrs Turei says.
"The police officer in this case seems to have played on Richard Barnes' youth to get the desired outcome of a DNA sample. $400 is a lot of money for a teenager, and an offer to waive this would be hard to refuse. As a young person, Richard Barnes was statistically less likely than an adult to know and assert his legal rights in a situation like this.
"Anyone in police uniform is a major authority figure to a young person, and I would be disappointed to find that this authority was being abused by police to reach their own targets for new additions to the DNA database.
"The apparent absence of the proper consent form is also a major worry, not just for young people but for anyone voluntarily handing over DNA samples to police. Unless the person concerned reads and understands their legal rights, any sample given must be considered invalid. It is totally unacceptable to have anyone handing over a sample without being made aware of the small print.
"In light of this case, it is hard to have any confidence in police ability to take DNA samples from young people in an appropriate manner. The Green Party is calling for all samples taken from young people under the age of 20 to be reviewed to ensure that no coercion was present and that the proper consents were obtained. Any samples that do not meet this standard should be destroyed," Mrs Turei says.