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Law Commission seeks input on DNA review

What do you think
about Police analyzing DNA left at a crime scene to predict
the ethnicity or appearance of an
offender?

This is one of the questions that the Law Commission is asking in its recently published issues paper on The Use of DNA in Criminal Investigations.

New Zealand was the second country to create a legislative regime for the use of DNA in criminal investigations – the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995.

The Law Commission says it is no longer possible to read the Act and obtain an accurate picture of the role and function of DNA profiling in criminal investigations. The purpose of the Act is also unclear; the structure confusing; and there is no independent oversight of the regime.

Law Commissioner Donna Buckingham says that developments in the 22 years since the Act came into force raise questions which require informed public debate. In addition to whether the Police should be able to analyse DNA to predict appearance or ethnicity, there are questions such as:
• whether Police can analyse an item discarded by a suspect (for example a coffee cup in a public rubbish bin) to get a DNA profile;
• whether Police can search the National DNA Profile Databank for close matches to DNA left at crime scenes – indicating that it may have been a close relative of the person on the known person databank at the crime scene (familial searching);
• whether DNA profiles should be collected from everyone in New Zealand and held on the National DNA Profile Databank.
“In considering these questions we need to focus not only on supporting the effectiveness of DNA profiling in the criminal context, but also on addressing the privacy, tikanga, human rights and Treaty of Waitangi concerns that arise" says Donna Buckingham. “We are keen to hear the public’s views on these as well as on the other issues identified in the paper”.

The public can explore some possible DNA scenarios on the Law Commission’s website, have their say on ten key questions, or share their experience at https://dna-consultation.lawcom.govt.nz.

TheIssuesPaper can be downloaded athttps://lawcom.govt.nz/our-projects/use-dna-criminal-investigations.

Views and submissions can be provideduntil31 March 2019.

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