Final phase of DNA to come into force in December

Thursday 15 September 2011, 9:45PM
By Simon Power

Justice Minister Simon Power today announced that the final stage of DNA expansion, under the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Act 2009, will take effect from 5 December.

The expansion of DNA has been in two stages to ensure Police had time to finalise training and guidelines, and to enable Environmental Science and Research to prepare for an increased workload.

Phase 1, which came in last September, allowed Police to take DNA at the time of arrest, as opposed to after conviction.

It also expanded the list of offences that DNA could be taken for to include offences with a relationship to more serious offending, such as peeping and peering.

Under phase 2, DNA will be able to be collected from adult offenders for any offence punishable by a term of imprisonment.

For young people (aged 14 to 17) samples can be taken only for an offence specified in legislation. Samples will be able to be taken for imprisonable offences but only with prior judicial approval (i.e. suspect samples and post-conviction samples). Young people are entitled to have another person present when a sample is taken.

“Before this law change, DNA was under-used and allowed to be taken only with consent or where there were judicially approved suspect orders or after a conviction with police-issued compulsion notices,” Mr Power said.

"The expansion of DNA will enable Police to take full advantage of this modern-day fingerprint in order to solve cold cases, and potentially future crimes.”

Mr Power said that in phase 1, 2272 more samples were analysed than in the previous year, resulting in 393 new links to the crime scene database, including for two historic rape cases which have since been reopened.

The first year of phase 2 is expected to add 5,000 more profiles than phase 1 and 200 additional links to the crime scene database.

The DNA databank currently holds approximately 124,000 profiles, 24,000 of which are unidentified profiles from crime scenes.

Police have developed guidelines to avoid any arbitrary or unreasonable application of the new regime.