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Terms for DNA inquiry should be wider: Goff

Labour
2000 web siteJustice Minister Tony Ryall must broaden the terms of reference of the inquiry into the use of DNA as evidence in Court to look at the overall way in which ESR conducts its analysis, says Labour justice spokesperson Phil Goff

"The concern is that the recent mistakes involving the use and conclusions of DNA evidence may only be the tip of the iceberg.

"Using DNA samples as evidence is too important a tool for both the police and the Courts to have its credibility questioned through mistakes being made.

"However mistakes have occurred: a Christchurch man's DNA sample somehow contaminated the scene-of-the-crime samples at two unrelated murders in Wellington; the David Dougherty sample was read as indicating he might have been the offender in a crime when independent analysis showed quite clearly that he could not have been; and the Peter Howse case where analysis was misread to enable Peter Howse to be acquitted of a rape that re-analysis now shows he was 3 million times more likely to have committed.

"Poor handling, or poor procedures, or poor analysis has helped create injustices where: someone was convicted when they ought to have been found innocent, a man was found not-guilty when he should have been found guilty, and a person was linked with two unrelated murders that he couldn't possibly have committed.

"DNA provides a vital evidential tool for the Courts in achieving certainty, but if poor analysis or contamination of samples continues to happen it will grossly undermine the confidence any jury will have in the technique.

"Any inquiry must ensure that the credibility of DNA evidence is restored," Mr Goff said.

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