Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

 

Carte Blanche ‘Catch-Up’ with Vanessa

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Watch Vanessa Lynch’s recent ‘catch-up’ interview with Carte Blanche‘s Laura Byrne at the 4th Annual Forensic Services Conference wherein she discusses the continued work of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (NFOEB) and the implementation of the DNA Act.

To view the programme segment please click here.

Secretariat of DNA Board – post advert

Friday, January 27th, 2017

The following position of Secretariat on the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (DNA Board) (Ref: CSP/01/2017) is currently being advertised.

For enquiries, please kindly contact Ms Lerato Maisela on 012 393 2500 / 1916.

CENTRE: Pretoria

SALARY: R 898 743 per annum (All inclusive remuneration package)

REQUIREMENTS

  • An LLB degree or equivalent tertiary qualification and registration with CIS (Chartered Secretaries Southern Africa) will be an added advantage.
  • A minimum of 5 years’ experience at Middle Management.
  • Sound knowledge of Public Service Systems and applicable legislations and regulations (Corporate legislations, King, III: PFMA, etc.) as well as their functioning.
  • A proven track record in the management of Corporate Governance, working with Boards of Public Entities, processes and systems, Sound and extensive track record incorporating Governance, Budget management and Strategic Management, Be a strategic and analytical thinker with excellent communication and writing skills, People and diversity management experience.
  • Ability to follow organizational objectives and drive synergies in a mature manner and provide a proven track record of experience in similar/relevant previous assignments.
  • Advanced legal drafting skills, Good presentation skills, Good facilitation skills and Project management skills,
  • Sound financial management skills, Planning and organizing skills, Problem solving and decision-making skills, Research skills and Report writing skills.
  • Ability to prioritize and work under pressure.

DUTIES

  • Drafting and development of Policies and Procedures, Drafting recommendations for improvement to legislation and Keeping the Board fully informed of existing and new legislative requirements.
  • Support the DNA Board in the effective management of the Board by drafting reports, developing systems reports.
  • Overseeing the implementation of appropriate database management software solutions, ensuring training of stakeholders and acting as a communication and information channel for the Board members.
  • Overall management and development of the DNA Board staff in terms of Performance Management and Development System.

I Am Woman: Thank you!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

I have been inundated with messages of love and support since the showing of the below documentary on the work of the DNA Project.

It was not a journey I undertook alone and thank you to my amazing DNA Project family for your passion and unwavering support over the last decade.

In particular the documentary pays such beautiful tribute to my Dad, Johnny Lynch – it is the first time I have seen my Dad ‘live’ in video since his death (we didn’t realise my brother had these videos…) and it took my breath away — for my daughter and my family sitting around me, it felt as if he was in the room with us and you could have heard a pin drop as the tears fell upon our cheeks.

My Dad has always been my ‘silent’ partner in this journey, having not chosen to use his name in my work, because that was what my Dad was always about — he always told me that true charity is when you give something of yourself but never tell anyone about it — well in some ways that was what he did and in this programme it was his time to shine and I am so glad that his story was told, even though I know he would still be humble about it!

In loving memory of the true hero in this story, my dearest Dad, John Lynch

~ Vanessa

Thank you to Lisa Chait and Lauren Groenewald together with the whole “I AM WOMAN” team. It was a real honour for our DNA Project family to be part of your inspirational programme.

I AM WOMAN LEAP OF FAITH is a South African television and online series presented by storyteller Lisa Chait. It features the lives and Leaps of Faith of remarkable women exploring how they stepped into brand new territory when faced with life’s greatest challenges and opportunities. Each episode uncovers the turning points and pivotal moments of change in their lives. We also explore where they turned to when the chips were down.

To learn more about the series or to view past episodes, please visit www.iamwomanseries.com

Some of the wonderful comments we received via our social media and emails – Thank you all for your very kind words of support:

“Dear Vanessa, Congratulations…. what a lovely documentary. Your family have every reason to be so very proud of you. Both Brian and I thought that every interview was excellent and both felt very humbled to be connected to such a remarkable achievement and woman. I just wish that neither of us, (you and I) had to experience the trauma that we did for this to happen. You will be in the history books! Lots of love, respect, and admiration” ~ Diana Thomson (Mike Thomson Change A Life Trust)

“I hope you are all feeling very proud of what you did and achieved… I smiled, I laughed, I cried, I felt happy, I felt sad, but above all, I felt blessed and privileged to know you all. Vee, you really are the champion and all your seconds along the way have walked / run the race with you. I know that for you the hero in this story is and always will be Johnny – for me, it’s all of you. God bless – take care – lots of love” ~ Carol xx

“I just wanted to share with you how touched I was by your story that was aired last night. Thank you for touching the hearts of many others in a time of great sorry and pain. What a lady!!!!!!!!!!!! Thought I must share with you how much it meant to me” ~ Elsabe

“I watched a program of you last night,I am woman. What you have done is amazing and is a lasting legacy. May God bless you for your strength and courage. Thank you from a South African dad” ~ Rudi

“You’re an amazing woman Vanessa. When unsolved cases of someone dear to us go unsolved, it’s heart breaking. We salute you and thank you for your “Leap of Faith”” ~ Colleen

“I have cried while watching this very poignant story. What an incredible person you are Vanessa. I am amazed at your dedication and tenacity. You deserve more recognition for your brilliant work. Well done” ~ Alison

“Was so incredibly emotional and inspirational to watch last night. So much respect for what you and the team are doing for the country. Thank you” ~ Marieka

“Really heartfelt, whilst informative all at the same time” ~ Nolwazi

#OscarPistorius’ murder conviction means his DNA will be placed on NFDD

Friday, December 4th, 2015

With the recent Supreme Court of Appeal’s recent ruling pronouncing ‪Oscar Pistorius‬ guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013 and the overturning of his previous culpable homicide conviction, it is important to note that Oscar’s DNA will now have to be taken and his DNA profile placed onto our National Forensic DNA Database (NFDD) as a convicted offender where it will be retained indefinitely.

His DNA may well have already been taken as a result of his earlier culpable homicide conviction, as both are listed as a Schedule 8 offence under the new DNA Act, but this conviction was given before the Act was made fully operational on the 31st of January 2015.

Criminal Justice System (CJS) Modernisation: follow-up meeting with SAPS and its stakeholders

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Last week (10 June) the Portfolio Committee on Police met with a number of key stakeholders to follow up on issues relating to the modernisation of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

The Committee previously met with SAPS on 13 May 2015 where it was briefed on its CJS, Integrated Justice System (IJS) and Technology Management System (TMS) projects.

At this meeting, it came to the fore that there were certain challenges experienced in terms of the execution of some of the projects with some of the role-players. There were currently 73 technology projects run by SAPS of which 15 were linked to other departments.

This follow-up meeting afforded the Committee the opportunity to meet with the relevant stakeholders, e.g. SITA, Department of Public Works (DPW) and Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to get a full picture of the issues at hand.

During the meeting the Committee heard a presentation by SITA (State Information Technology Agency) where the role of SITA, status, time and outstanding matters on a number of projects were discussed – which included:

  • National Forensic DNA Database (NFDD): SITA appointed a team to assist the SAPS in the implementation of the NFDD (CODIS) solution. The team had started the preparation of the environment from where the system will operate.
  • LABWARE: A software solution procured by SAPS directly, which managed workflow of all specimen in the forensic LAB
  • Forensic Science Laboratory Administration System: Administration system behind the forensic science laboratory

Following SITA’s presentation, Vanessa, as Deputy Chair of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board, asked SITA if the decision had been made to implement CODIS and when it was anticipated this would take place.

In response, Lt. Gen. JK Phalane, SAPS Divisional Commissioner: Forensic Services, replied saying that SAPS had since opted to have a security assessment on CODIS in collaboration with the State Security Agency. Once there was an outcome of the assessment, SAPS would then provide an internal instruction.

She also questioned the blockages created through the chemistries employed and that there seemed to be a procurement issue with the new DNA kits being used. The integrity of the database rested on the data being inputted and she was concerned about compromising this integrity.

To view the full meeting minutes, please click here.

Thousands of detectives now trained to handle DNA

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

SAPS demonstrating the taking of a buccal swab at the 3rd National Forensic Services Conference held in 2015.

JOHANNESBURG – Members of Parliament have heard thousands of detectives have already been trained to take the forensic samples [buccal swabs] that will go towards building a national DNA database.

Lieutenant General Kgomotso Phahlane has briefed Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee on the implementation of the so-called DNA Act that came into operation in January.

“Our target was to make sure that 5,500 people were trained by the end of March and 5,456 have been trained.”

The Criminal Law Amendment Act provides for a DNA database that will help identify the perpetrators of unsolved crimes, prove the innocence or guilt of accused persons and help find missing people.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)

SOURCE: This article was first published by Eyewitness News on 12 May 2015

Forensic DNA Regulations in Place

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

SAPS demonstrating the taking of a buccal swab at the 3rd National Forensic Services Conference 2015

Regulations outlining how the South African Police Service (SAPS) will be allowed to take DNA samples from suspects have been published in Government Gazette 38561.

The Forensic DNA Regulations were published for comment in October 2010.

They were drawn up in terms of section 6 of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act of 2013.

The act promotes the use of DNA in crime fighting efforts and regulates how this is to occur taking constitutional principles into account.

It calls for the setting up of a national forensic DNA database.

The act also allows for forensic DNA profiles to be used in crime investigation and court proceedings.

The regulations focus on, inter alia:

•    The taking of a DNA sample;
•    The keeping of records in respect of collected buccal and crime scene samples;
•    Samples taken from persons for investigative purposes;
•    Samples collected by the independent police investigative directorate;
•    Preservation and timely transfer of collected samples to the Forensic Science Laboratory;
•    Conducting of comparative searches;
•    Communication of forensic DNA findings and related information;
•    DNA examinations conducted at the Forensic Science Laboratories;
•    Request for access to information stored on the NFDD;
•    Follow-up of forensic investigative leads;
•    Destruction of DNA reference samples and buccal samples;
•    Notification of court findings;
•    Removal of forensic DNA profiles from the NFDD;
•    Protocols and training relating to familial searches;
•    Complaints to the Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board;
•    Reports; and
•    Information technology infrastructure and systems.

Requests for removal of DNA profiles must be accompanied by police clearance certificates confirming that the applicant has no criminal record.

The regulations are now in force.

Click HERE to view the Government Notice outlining the regulations published in Government Gazette 38561.

SOURCE: SabinetLaw, 16 March 2015

DNA database no threat to civil rights

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Mary de Haas has been quite vocal in the past regarding her negative stance on the DNA Bill and following its recent passing into law as the DNA Act and subsequent operational status, she has once again chosen to attack the issue of DNA reference sample collection by the police.

On the 23rd of February The Times published the following letter by de Haas:

Protect your DNA from cops

Overseas experience suggests that the link between the existence of a DNA database and crime-solving is not as simple as the general public is being led to believe.

Legally allowing police to take DNA samples from people they arrest (they arrest innocent people, as well as those guilty of serious crimes, routinely) is a threat to human rights.

The potential for abuse of these powers is huge, especially as DNA (even in profile form) has commercial value.

Human tissue samples should only be taken and handled by properly qualified medical personnel who are answerable to professional bodies – not by police who regularly act as if they are above the law.

Mary de Haas, Durban

In response, Vanessa rebutted with the following letter to The Times – which was published on the TimesLIVE website on the 24th of February:

DNA Reference Sample Collection Kit which will be used by the trained SAPS officials

De Haas is misinformed on a number of issues. Only arrestees who have been formally charged with a schedule 8 offence as well as convicted offenders will have their DNA samples taken by an authorised, trained police officer.

This is a simple cheek swab which takes no more than 30 seconds.

Nowhere else in the world are doctors or nurses required to take DNA samples from arrestees and convicted offenders as it is considered to be unnecessary, expensive and logistically impractical.

Furthermore, the reference sample will be destroyed once the forensic DNA profile has been loaded onto the database.

A forensic DNA profile contains only 15 pairs of  numbers, commonly referred to as “junk markers,” that were specifically chosen because they do not reveal any physical, behavioural or medical traits about that person.

The resultant sequence of numbers which make up a forensic DNA profile act simply as a unique identifier and nothing else;  just like fingerprinting.

As such there is no invasion of privacy as no private information is revealed and therefore is of no ‘commercial’ value as suggested by de Haas.

If the arrest does not result in a conviction, the profile will thereafter be removed from the DNA Database. If a conviction results, it will remain there indefinitely.

De Haas has been lamenting about the ‘serious human rights’ issues supposedly being brought about by the Database since its first introduction into Parliament in 2008.

Neither then nor throughout its five year progress through Parliament did she ever substantiate her reasons for this allegation nor submit any suggestions as to how this ‘breach’ could be addressed.

Public comments were called for on the DNA Bill by Parliament in both 2009 and 2013, and yet she never bothered to respond on either occasion.

Be that as it may, De Haas should be embracing this legislation which provides a regulatory framework to ensure that the retention framework of the Database is in fact maintained in the way in which the act envisages it to be managed.

Our new laws address this robustly and have the added protection of an Oversight and Ethics Board as well as The Human Rights Commission, which incidentally were satisfied that no human rights would be breached by this implementation of this Act.

Note too that de Haas did not apply for a position to the National Forensic and Oversight Board which surprises me since she believes it will pose such serious human rights problems.

De Haas alleging that her comments are ‘based on overseas experience’ is ridiculous to say the least. Unlike de Haas, I have in fact attended several international DNA conferences and forensic DNA profiling is without doubt considered to be the forensic tool of choice and one of the most objective forms of evidence available to crime scene investigators today.

The NAS report: Strengthening Forensic Science [Feb 2009] concluded that “…with the exception of nuclear DNA analysis, . . . no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

Coupled with the fact that no country which has introduced DNA legislation to expand its DNA Database has ever reduced the scope of its database, is de Haas seriously suggesting we should simply ignore its huge potential as a crime resolution tool?

Whilst there will certainly be challenges going forward, we should be  welcoming legislation which creates accountability amongst the criminal population, which is in keeping with international standards and we should at the very least be supporting our existing forensic science labs who have already started to identify serial offenders as well as solve cold cases through the linking of profiles on the database.

De Haas professes to be an expert on the matter. In truth her letter reveals the contrary.

It shows that she has not  read the provisions of the new DNA Act nor made any effort to understand the complex nature of why this legislation is such a significant step forward in South Africa.  Since her last letter, the legislation has not only been passed, but is now operational.

Over the next five years we expect to see even more progress. Hopefully by that time de Haas will have found something else to write about.

Sincerely

Vanessa Lynch, Founder & Executive Director of The DNA Project

SAPS Press conference on DNA legislation – Media invitation

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

MEDIA ALERT

SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE

To:     All media

SAPS NATIONAL COMMISSIONER PROVIDES PROGRESS ON DNA LEGISLATION

Pretoria 3 February 2015 – The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 (the DNA Act) was finally passed into law on the 27th of January 2014.

The SAPS National Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega cordially invites the media to a press conference in which she will provide progress on DNA legislation and capacity in this regard, investigations and convictions on rape cases.

Date:               4 Feb 2015

Time:              9:30am for 10:00am

Venue:            GCIS Press Room, corner Frances Baard and Festival Streets, Hatfield

SA forensics: A bloody mess?

Friday, August 15th, 2014

The following article by Rebecca Davis was first published by the Daily Maverick on 14 August 2014.

Forensic expert Dr David Klatzow has been one of the most vocal and consistent critics of South African police handling of crime scenes and evidence. Speaking on Wednesday about his new book, ‘Justice Denied’, Klatzow wasn’t mincing his words about the quality of local forensic investigations.

One of the DNA Project's "Don't disturb a crime scene" social media messages launched during the Oscar Pistorius Trial

David Klatzow has a simple message for anyone accused of a crime in South Africa: don’t expect to get a fair ride.

“I’ve written a book about this because it seems to me that we have a problem in this country, ” Klatzow told an audience at the Cape Town Press Club on Wednesday. He said that there is a justifiable expectation that the state, with its powerful resources, should be able to handle the processing and interpretation of forensic evidence correctly: “One would expect the state to get it right.”

But the reality, Klatzow says, is often depressingly different. He cited the example of Fred van der Vyfer, charged with the murder of his girlfriend Inge Lotz in 2005. Van der Vyfer was ultimately acquitted with the aid of Klatzow, who was hired by the accused’s family to look into the forensic evidence which the state claimed fingered van der Vyfer.

Though questions continue to swirl around who killed Lotz, if not Van der Vyfer, Klatzow remains adamant that “there is not a shred of evidence that proved he did it”. But he says it is frightening to consider what could have happened if van der Vyfer had not been from a wealthy family.

“Fred, had he not had the resources to throw R9 million at the case, would be sitting in Pollsmoor Prison,” Klatzow says, despite the fact that the state’s case against him was “nothing but smoke and mirrors”.

Van der Vyfer’s case is one of a number that Klatzow cites to support his assertion that “dishonesty and incompetence” characterise many police investigations in this country. But the silver lining – if you can call it that – is that this is not a South Africa-specific problem. Klatzow says that in the course of researching his new book, Justice Denied, one thing became apparent: “We are not alone in this deplorable situation”.

Convictions of innocent people based on inaccurate or fraudulent evidence given by police forensic experts has a long history internationally. One example Klatzow gives is that of Dr Hawley Crippen, who was hanged for the murder of his wife in 1910: one of Edwardian London’s most sensational cases.

After the disappearance of Crippen’s wife Cora, Dr Crippen claimed she had returned to America. But there were a number of things that didn’t look good for Crippen. For one, he ran off with his attractive young secretary. For another, when police searched his house for the fourth time, they found human remains buried under the brick floor of his basement. The pathologist used by the prosecution, Dr Bernard Spilsbury, testified that a piece of skin revealed an abdominal scar which was consistent with Cora’s medical history. Crippen was duly found guilty of the murder of his wife and hanged.

In 2007, however, the tissue slides used by Spilsbury were re-examined and DNA extracted from them. These tests reportedly established that the body parts were those of a man.

“On the say-so of a dogmatic pathologist, Crippen went to the gallows for a murder he did not commit,” Klatzow says. “I kick off the book with that because nothing’s changed.” (It should be noted that the idea that Crippen was innocent remains controversial.)

During Apartheid, Klatzow says, police would often produce versions of events after police shootings which were clearly incompatible with the evidence. He recalled the case of the Gugulethu Seven, a group of Umkhonto weSizwe members killed by police in 1986. Klatzow’s investigation showed that contrary to police evidence, the men had been shot at close range. One policeman claimed he had shot one man while the man was “running forwards, right to left”.

“Then why are all the bullet holes in his right hand side?” Klatzow asked.

Apartheid may be over, but Klatzow says that police incompetence and wilful deception in crime scene investigations endure. He calls the aftermath of the killing of mining magnate Brett Kebble “the worst-handled crime scene” he has encountered, saying police wanted to valet Kebble’s car before evidence had been extracted from it.

Klatzow has harsh words, too, for the handling of the Oscar Pistorius crime scene. First policeman Hilton Botha was allowed to walk all over it, he says. Then a policeman handled the gun without gloves – and when alerted to this, wiped it clean and puts it down again. A bullet fragment in the toilet bowl was missed. And to top it all off, Pistorius’ watches were stolen.

“This is handed out as the best our police can do,” Klatzow said. He added that if Pistorius were to be convicted, it would be in spite of the police work on the case, not because of it.

Klatzow also hit out at the state’s forensic laboratories, saying it could still take two years to get a blood sample back, and up to eight years for toxicology results.

“If you have a spouse to knock off, now’s the time to do it,” he said. “And do it with poison.”

But not everyone agrees that the picture is as negative as Klatzow makes out.

“I reckon that there are issues, but I like to be constructive,” Vanessa Lynch, the founder of South Africa’s DNA Project, told the Daily Maverick on Wednesday. She points out that when it comes to old cases, police could only rely on the forensic evidence available at the time.

“In the past, hair shaft analysis was considered to be cutting edge,” Lynch says. “It’s subsequently been recognised that it’s an inexact science. As we’re exposed to more and more forensic processes, we are able to get closer to the truth.”

Lynch acknowledged that substantial challenges remain, but she maintains that forensic evidence – and particularly DNA – is one of the firmest forms of criminal evidence in existence (as opposed to, say, eye-witness testimony). While the Pistorius case was dominating headlines, the DNA Project attempted to use it as a way of educating the public about the need to keep crime scenes undisturbed. “When you don’t disturb a crime scene, forensic evidence has the power to determine exactly what happened,” the DNA Project’s website instructed.

One of the DNA Project’s major initiatives over the past years has been to campaign for the establishment of a database of DNA to be used by police in the investigation of crimes. They succeeded: in January this year the DNA Act was passed. When fully implemented, it will require police to take DNA samples from criminal suspects arrested for serious offences, as well as parolees and convicted offenders. These will be entered into a database and DNA collected from crime scenes will then be compared.

When the act was promulgated, skepticism was expressed as to whether it will ever be effectively implemented – including from Klatzow. Lynch says there have been delays, but “things are moving in the right direction”.

Police still need to be trained to take DNA swabs, and the members of the National Forensics Oversight and Ethics Board appointed. This latter step is crucial, she says, because its members will be ensuring that the act is not a “paper tiger”. But applications for board membership closed in March, and its members have still not been announced.

“Despite that, there’s still movement,” Lynch says. She says the Cape Town forensics lab has set up the necessary systems already to be able to process DNA samples when they start arriving. “The back-end stuff is happening.”

Lynch has a parting shot for critics of South Africa’s forensic work. “At least we have a forensic infrastructure,” she says. “It may require tweaking, but that’s a helluva lot more than some places.” DM