Archive for the ‘Newsletter’ Category

 

Forensic Science Service (UK) to be closed down

Tue, Jan 11th, 2011

DNA profile in lab

The government-owned Forensic Science Service, which employs 1,600 people, is to be wound up – closing by 2012.

Crime Reduction Minister James Brokenshire said the Birmingham-based service was losing about £2m a month and could run out of money in January.

Its evidence was key to the arrest of serial killer Steve Wright and in the case of missing girl Shannon Matthews.

The Prospect union, representing 1,000 FSS professionals, said the decision made a “mockery” of the justice system.

Its deputy general secretary Mike Clancy said: “Cost will now determine justice in the UK. The government is putting its faith in an untested market to deliver forensic science at a time when it has never been more important to the detection of crime.”

The decision would “destroy a world-class body” that was envied by international police and lead to an over-emphasis in profits in the sector which could threaten the quality of the science, he added.

However, the FSS had faced increased private-sector competition for police contracts and Mr Brokenshire told the BBC this was enabling forces to achieve greater efficiency.

“They’re seeing better turnaround in terms of the way in which forensics are being processed,” he said.

In a statement, the FSS said spending cuts meant police forces had less money for forensics consultancy and were increasingly taking such work in-house.

It said it had raised such concerns to the Home Office and was “disappointed” that they had not been addressed before the winding-up decision was made.

In a written statement to MPs, Mr Brokenshire had said it was vital for the government to take “clear and decisive action” to sort out the FSS after it got into “serious financial difficulty”.
“The police have advised us that their spend on external forensic suppliers will continue to fall over the next few years as forces seek to maximise efficiencies in this area,” he said.

“We have therefore decided to support the wind-down of the FSS, transferring or selling off as much of its operations as possible.”

DNA evidence gathered by the FSS led to the arrest of Ipswich murderer Wright within days of the discovery of his fifth victim.

The company also provided toxicology evidence against Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan which helped ensure their conviction for kidnapping and drugging schoolgirl Shannon.

BBC legal affairs analyst Clive Coleman said the FSS had enjoyed significant successes and had a good reputation, despite one or two failures such as the Damilola Taylor murder inquiry where DNA evidence was initially missed.

He said private enterprise, which already made up 40% of the market, should expand to fill the gap left behind by the FSS.

However, there were concerns that commercial pressures might mean additional tests and analysis were no longer done.

“There is a concern from some lawyers that perhaps if you’re simply looking at the bottom line… critical evidence might not come to light and be produced in court,” he added.

The FSS has been government-owned since 2005.

Scotland is unaffected by the announcement, as the Scottish Police Services Authority is responsible, while Nothern Ireland has its own agency, Forensic Science Northern Ireland.

Article courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11989225

Feedback from Interpol DNA User’s Conference

Wed, Sep 29th, 2010

This time last week I was sitting at the Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France listening to the Chief of the USA FBI CODIS Unit talk about International DNA Exchange methods. This was only one of approximately 35 fascinating presentations delivered by representatives from over 50 countries. As you may well imagine, participating in a conference of this magnitude was extraordinary, and the value of being able to interact with the other representatives: priceless. A special mention of thanks needs to go to our generous sponsor, The Open Society Foundation for South Africa, which enabled us to attend this incredible conference.

Members of the Interpol DNA Monitoring Expert Group at the Conference

The keynote speaker was a highly respected Australian Forensic Scientist by the name of Dr Simon Walsh. Dr Walsh is the Co-ordinator of the Australian DNA Database who spoke about, amongst other topics, ‘New Technologies & Techniques in the 21st Century use of DNA‘. We heard about what he termed “the triumvirate of interests” which is the critical interplay between the police,  forensic scientists and the justice system. If you absent one of these 3 critical components when trying to implement a DNA Criminal Intelligence Database, the success of any DNA Database will fail to reach its expected outcome. This needs to be considered in great detail in a country such as South Africa where both our justice system and SAPS are fraught with problems. These challenges however are not unique to South Africa, and the way in which other countries have dealt with this, is by the implementation of a DNA Expansion Board or body of people, represented by the various departments as well as ethicists and parliamentarians and any other group relevant to that administration who collectively oversee the development of the DNA Database. I have spoken about this type of overseeing body on many occasions in the past and still believe that this approach would work well in South Africa, which in fact has the benefit of an already established DNA database as well as a functional forensic laboratory. Whether the Portfolio Committee reviewing our current legislation recognises this critical requirement however, is yet to be seen….

Carolyn and I arriving at Interpol Headquarters on the first day of the Conference

On a more complex level, and probably more relevant to countries such as the UK, Australia and the USA who have developed and utilised their DNA Databases successfully as criminal intelligence tools, Dr Walsh’s presentation went further to explore an inferential model for DNA database performance using data from major national DNA database programs. The parameters that optimise desirable database outputs (matches) were isolated and discussed, as was his approach for maximizing financial efficiency and minimizing ethical impact brought about by the successful implementation of DNA databases. Dr Walsh’s research takes important steps toward identifying measures of performance for forensic DNA database operations and should you wish to know more about his formulas he has developed to measure DNA Database outcomes, feel free to email me at info@dnaproject.co.za and I will send you the paper he has recently written on this subject.

What struck me most at the conference was the extent to which the majority of the countries government’s represented at the conference, were willing to put in whatever resources were required to establish and maximise the effectiveness of their respective DNA databases. It was also sobering to see how seriously they took crime and in some countries a stolen car was considered to be headline news and worthy of 24/7 resources to catch the perpetrator. You can just imagine the reaction that followed my presentation where I described the current situation in South Africa, spoke about my experience when my father was murdered and ended off the presentation with the VUKA ad which highlights the severity of crime in our country. To say that the audience was left in stunned silence at the end of my presentation, is perhaps an

Vanessa Lynch presenting at the Interpol DNA Conference

understatement. I think we all know how de-sensitized we are to crime in South Africa, but when people came up to me afterwards and told me they had literally choked-up during my presentation, I realised how far removed we really are and how dangerous this can be as it moves us into a place of acceptance of an absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable situation. And people kept asking me – but WHY doesn’t your government do something about this and WHY is it taking so long to pass this legislation which will convert all those unprocessed rape kits I had shown them, into a DNA profile which may lead the CSI’s to the perpetrator to STOP them from re-offending. And the best question: but WHY doesn’t your government or your parliamentarians RESPECT these victims and future victims of crime enough in your country to do something about this? Yes, WHY indeed?

Carolyn and Vanessa in the Interpol Headquarter's Garden

On the other end of the scale we heard from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) how they  have been given 1 BILLION US$ to implement a population database in their region – their crime rate, I recall, is something in the region of 950 reported crimes over 10 years?! The reason – to prevent future crime from occurring! Whilst this is not a realistic option in most parts of the world, it sparked serious debate amongst the audience in respect of the value and ethical considerations a population database would bring about. For those not familiar with the term ‘population database’, it simply means that instead of focusing on putting the criminal population on the DNA database, it puts the entire country’s DNA profiles on the database which creates a larger reference pool for matching purposes when a crime occurs and a DNA profile is uplifted from a crime scene. Theirs is going to be the first population database in the world, and what I found most significant was that legislation was not listed as a ‘requirement’ for its implementation! This is because, and I quote, “Legislation will be taken care of by the Minister of Interior”! No questions asked.

We thoroughly enjoyed listening to some fascinating case studies presented by different countries over the course of the 3 days, all of which obviously showed how DNA was used to track the perpetrator of the crime, and in some cases, from as far back as the early 1970’s and throughout the world using Interpol’s International DNA Database.

We were also shown a very exciting new website called the  “Forensic DNA World Map Project “. The World Map Project provides forensic scientists, criminal justice professionals and lawmakers with access to the policy, legislative, legal and technical knowledge-base of the countries throughout the world that have operational DNA database programs.  It is a free service but is limited to those individuals pursuing the information for the purpose of developing and refining forensic DNA policy.  One can apply for a password and if given, those Users may request additional country-specific information, such as enabling legislation, DNA database reports, presentations, statistical data, technical standards and media.  The WMP can also connect users with forensic DNA databasing leaders throughout the world.  I am going to suggest to our Parliamentary Researcher that she apply for a password to access this database and that she disseminate same to members of our Portfolio Committee – this is probably what they really need to look at to inform themselves of  International Best Practice (IBP) – in other words, an armchair tour of the World’s DNA Policies may be all they need to learn the most about how this technology is being implemented internationally and the issues and challenges each of those countries has had to deal with!! I have looked at the site and it is arguably one of the most informative portals when it comes to looking at IBP in this arena.

There was also a lot of discussion around familial searching, which is used mostly for DVI (Disaster Victim Identification) but in a more regulated way, to establish a link to the perpetrator when they pick up a familial link on the DNA database between a crime stain and a profile which already exists on the database. Judge Arthur Tompkins presented some very sound and objective arguments on both the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of familial searching. Having listened to these discussions I think it would be prudent for South Africa to consider inserting a provision in our new DNA legislation to regulate this area of the database.

Judge Tompkins also provided us with very valuable insight into the lessons learned from the outcome of the contentious S & Marper cases which reached the European Human Rights Courts. I so wished even ONE member of our Portfolio Committee could have been there to participate in these discussions, as they have stated on more than one occasion that they are considering the outcome of this case in the review of our legislation.  This case you may recall, centres around the retention of ‘innocent’ profiles on the database where the person is subsequently acquitted or the case is dropped. What you may find interesting, is that “S” is a person named Smith who was a minor at the time of his DNA profile being loaded onto the database. Smith was not subsequently convicted. But how ironic is this: Smith was recently linked to a crime he was found guilty of committing – how? Because his DNA profile found on the crime scene matched his ‘innocent’ profile on the database….

Carolyn and I left the Interpol Headquarters last Friday with our heads full of new information and new ideas; new friends and allies and more importantly renewed motivation. We received such wonderful support for the work we are doing in South Africa – everyone found it completely unique (and not surprisingly, somewhat strange!) that a non-government organisation was necessary in a country like South Africa where we provide DNA awareness, grass roots training, skills development and most importantly a public voice to try and convince the relevant governmental powers of the value of a criminal intelligence DNA database. Be that as it may, we will continue with our mission to ‘fight crime with science’, and whilst we are not advocating that this is the ‘silver bullet’ to resolve crime, it certainly remains a mystery as to why South Africa has not leapt at the opportunity to more fully use this phenomenal technology where accountability for crime has not yet been achieved.

Should you wish to know anything further about the conference, feel free to email me on info@dnaproject.co.za

Vanessa

DNA: The crime-fighting tool that needs to be used

Fri, Sep 3rd, 2010

This article was featured in The Witness, 3 Sep 2010 on Page 9.

DNA: The crime-fighting tool that needs to be used
03 Sep 2010

Dr Carolyn Hancock, a Director of The DNA Project

EARLIER this year Rudi Venter, who had been charged with the murder of his wife, walked out of court a free man. DNA evidence had determined he was innocent.

Venter’s wife was beaten to death with a baseball bat at their Johannesburg home in 2006. At the time, Venter said he had returned home after taking his children to school and seen two men running from the house before finding his critically injured wife. Venter was arrested for her murder a year later. Just before he was due to go to trial in February, his legal team asked an expert to interpret the DNA results from material found at the scene. It was found that DNA samples obtained at the scene contained the blood of Venter’s wife and two unidentified men. Venter’s blood was not present anywhere. Consequently, the state withdrew the murder charge.

If the DNA found at the scene had been processed at the time as a matter of routine, Venter would not have spent four years with a murder charge hanging over him.

“DNA does not only prove guilt, but it can also prove innocence,” says Dr Carolyn Hancock, a director of the DNA Project and a former genetics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“In the United States, 258 people have been freed from prison on the basis of DNA results. The average time they had spent in prison was 13 years. Seventeen of them were on death row for crimes they never committed.”

Currently, this cannot happen in South Africa as the processing of DNA for forensic purposes by the South African Police Force Forensic Science Laboratory is prioritised according to five categories. Top of the list is a request from prosecutors when they have a suspect. The laboratory then undertakes to do a complete DNA analysis within 120 days or by trial date.

Bottom of the list are those cases with no known suspect. “This is what we believe should change,” says Hancock. “With a DNA database, reoffenders would immediately be identified.”

For this to happen, aspects of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 need to be amended in order for the country’s police force to be able to routinely use DNA for forensic purposes. The act is out of date; back in 1977, nobody had started using DNA for forensic purposes and consequently the act doesn’t specifically regulate the use of DNA for criminal intelligence purposes.

To address this omission, the Criminal Law Forensic Procedures Amendment Bill was drafted in 2008. It deals with the use of DNA and looks to allow police access to fingerprint databases other than their own, such as those of the departments of home affairs and transport, which routinely take fingerprints for identification purposes.

The draft bill was subsequently divided into two parts — one dealing with fingerprints, the other with DNA. The fingerprint legislation has been adopted. As a result, in addition to about five million fingerprints recorded by the SAPF, the police will now be allowed to search the other databases and access around 33 million fingerprints.

The DNA part of the bill is on hold while the parliamentary portfolio committee overseeing the bill reviews presentations regarding the issue and travels overseas to see how DNA analysis is done in other countries. It is unlikely that any decision will be made on the bill until next year.

If the bill is passed, which seems likely, capacity issues will have to be addressed if it is to be implemented effectively. One solution, given the lack of capacity of the SAPF, would be to outsource work to private laboratories.

“The capacity does exist out there to make this work,” says Hancock. “The immediate demand could be met. The use of private labs for the analysis of reference samples taken from arrestees would be a short-term solution, but they are used everywhere else and it is regarded as international best practice.”

But there remains a need for more qualified personnel within the SAPF and to that end, Hancock, as part of an initiative funded by the sponsors of the DNA Project, has been instrumental in developing a post-graduate qualification in forensic DNA analysis so that the state will have access to well-qualified personnel. This degree is already being offered at the University of the Free State and will be offered next year at the University of Cape Town. “The course material is freely available to any South African post-graduate institution,” she says.

Although the draft bill might be on hold, the DNA Project is promoting and publicising the use of DNA analysis in the fight against crime. The DNA Project is a non-profit, public-benefit organisation lobbying for the expansion of a national DNA database and it proposes that DNA profiles be created from DNA samples collected from crime scenes and from all those suspected or convicted of a crime.

“In this country, such a database would be hugely beneficial because of the number of criminals who reoffend,” says Hancock. “If you get them on the database the first time they commit an offence, then if you don’t convict them for their first offence you will hopefully do so when they reoffend.”

The DNA Project has just launched a new campaign aimed at promoting DNA awareness in South Africa. “We are primarily targeting community police forums and security companies,” says Hancock.

“The latter are often the first on a crime scene. You press a panic button and they are the first to respond. We want to ensure that anyone who is first at a crime scene ensures that any DNA evidence is preserved as it can easily be contaminated or destroyed. This evidence should be collected by trained SAPF crime-scene investigators.”

This nation-wide campaign sees the DNA Project offering free DNA awareness workshops to educate people as to the benefits of utilising DNA evidence for crime detection and prevention, and the need to contain and not contaminate a crime scene. “We would like to offer these workshops, which are free of charge, to those who are likely to be the first to arrive at a crime scene. For example, first responding officers, security guards, police reservists and paramedics.”

The DNA project is hoping to get this message to 10 000 people this year and they also have government funding to reach as many schoolchildren as possible. “Genetics is part of the school curriculum,” says Hancock, “and forensics is something they study — and many of them watch CSI on TV.”

The workshops will provide a basic understanding of how DNA profiling can be used to assist in criminal investigations in South Africa and the importance of preserving DNA evidence which may be at a crime scene. “This is essential as no matter how good our legislation or our laboratories are”, says Hancock, “we need to have the evidence properly preserved and collected at the crime scene.”

FORENSIC DNA evidence plays a vital role in criminal investigations because it can identify and help convict a suspect who is guilty of committing a crime or prove the innocence of a suspect who has been wrongly accused of a crime.

WHAT IS DNA? WHERE IS IT FOUND IN THE BODY?

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. This is the name for the chemical which is found in almost every cell in the human body and which is the blueprint or recipe for that person’s characteristics. Everyone’s DNA is unique (unless they have an identical twin). A person’s DNA is also exactly the same in every cell of their body. For example, the DNA pattern, also known as the DNA profile, in a human’s blood is the same as the DNA in his or her skin cells, body tissue, semen and saliva, which makes it possible to compare crime-scene evidence such as semen stains, saliva on cigarette butts and blood on clothing, with DNA obtained from a blood sample or cheek scraping taken from a suspect.

WHAT IS A DNA PROFILE?

A DNA profile is simply a unique list of letters and numbers obtained from a person’s DNA that acts as a personal identifier. A DNA profile contains no information about a person’s physical characteristics, their mental predisposition or anything about their medical his-tory. In the same way as fingerprints link a suspect to a crime, DNA provides scientific evidence that can identify or exclude a suspect from a police investigation. It can also be used to identify a victim through DNA from relatives, even when a body cannot be found. DNA profiling can also link two or more crime scenes. When evidence from one crime scene is compared with evidence from another, the police can tell whether it was the same person who had committed two different crimes. Even very old cases, which the police thought would never be solved, may contain DNA evidence that can be used to identify the person who committed that crime.

HOW CAN DNA HELP TO IDENTIFY A SUSPECT?

Once DNA samples have been collected from a crime scene and processed at the Forensic Science Laboratory, the DNA profile, which is the identification number taken from the DNA sample, can be compared with the DNA profiles taken from a known suspect. If no known suspect exists, the DNA profile taken from the crime scene is still valuable, as when it is entered onto the national DNA database, the police can see whether that DNA profile links to another known DNA profile on the DNA database or perhaps it may even link several different crimes to each other.

— DNA Project.

DNA DOES NOT ONLY PROVE GUILT, BUT IT CAN ALSO PROVE INNOCENCE. IN THE UNITED STATES, 258 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN FREED FROM PRISON ON THE BASIS OF DNA RESULTS. THE AVERAGE TIME THEY HAD SPENT IN PRISON WAS 13 YEARS. SEVENTEEN OF THEM WERE ON DEATH ROW FOR CRIMES THEY NEVER COMMITTED.

DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here!

Mon, Aug 23rd, 2010

Many of you may have caught Carte Blanche last night where I was interviewed on behalf of The DNA Project (click here if you missed the Carte Blanche interview). The overwhelming message was that we urgently need to pass DNA legislation in SA in order to utilize our DNA Database in such a way that it provides criminal intelligence. DNA is the gold standard for criminal investigation throughout the world and yet here in SA, where it is needed the most, we are being held to ransom by the members of Parliament who have yet to resume deliberations on the DNA Bill.

Why? Why are our Parliamentarians so slow on the uptake to implement laws to regulate this amazing technology which we have at our disposal?

The first phase of the DNA Bill which dealt with fingerprints was adopted in March 2010 – it is now August 2010 and we have not heard a word from the Portfolio Committee as to when they will be returning to Parliament to consider Phase Two – DNA. The World Cup is over, and everyone else seems to have gone back to ‘business as usual’, but every inquiry I make as to the whereabouts of the people who are supposed to be looking at this bill, are met with a blank stare or worse yet, “I don’t know”. This is unacceptable. But what can we do about it? We can speak up! That’s what.

Have a look at the following link: http://www2.wnct.com/news/2010/jul/15/13/dna-sample-testing-system-expanded-new-nc-law-ar-300849/

Don’t you wish we had more politicians who acted like the Governor of North Carolina in the USA, Bev Perdue? How many of our politicians have been effected by a violent crime just like she was? But what are they doing about it?

Perdue calls DNA testing the 21st-century fingerprint and she believes it will help prevent violent crime across her state. “In many, many cases DNA becomes the difference maker,” says Governor Bev Perdue. Starting in February, police across North Carolina will take DNA samples from anyone charged with murder, rape, or other violent felony crimes. The General Assembly passed the bill in July 2010.  Officers say it will prevent crime and solve cold cases. “It also helps us exonerate the innocent because it is so precise,” said Roy Cooper, North Carolina Attorney General.

Perdue says DNA samples will keep repeat offenders off the streets, preventing crimes like the murder of her dear friend Kathy Taft.

“This became personal to me especially because one of my 30-year best friends was murdered during the spring,” said Perdue. DNA testing was used to bring Taft’s murderer to justice in May this year.

The North Carolina State law enforcement has solved nearly 1,400 crimes using the existing DNA database.  Now with earlier testing, they’re looking to solve even more.

And I love this message from Perdue for lawmakers who still call DNA testing unreasonable search and seizure. “We have 21st century science and technology that allows us to catch really bad people faster and it is really unreasonable for the elected leaders and all of us to not move forward to make our streets as safe as we can,” she said. Hear! Hear! (wish you were here!)

Attorney General Roy Cooper says the law has privacy safe guards.  It’s a felony to misuse DNA and law officers will delete DNA records from the state’s database if the person is acquitted or their charges are dismissed. In addition, Law enforcement from the local level to the SBI will now of course have new responsibilities and they’ll undergo training on how to use the swabbing kits for collecting DNA.

Now, how difficult could that be to implement in SA? What exactly is preventing us from writing a story like the one above?

Vanessa

ps. since writing this blog, one of the portfolio committee members tasked with reviewing the bill has responded to my email requesting further information on the lack of progress of the bill – see the below commentary to follow what has transpired to date. I will continue to post the responses as I receive them. V.

Sustainable Crime Prevention Strategies Conference

Tue, May 25th, 2010

I have been asked to present at the Sustainable Crime Prevention Strategies & Community Safety Conference which is being held in JHB at the Garden Court OR Thambo Hotel from 26-28 May 2010. I will be speaking at 09h45 on Wednesday 26 May 2010 about the need for DNA Legislation in South Africa: the importance of the new DNA Bill, the challenges it presents and the recommendations that go in hand in hand with the passing of this crucial Bill.

National, provincial and local government officials as well as politicians, counselors, mayors, legislatures, SAPS officials and private sector organisations dealing with safety have been invited to attend and present at the Conference. As such I am interested to see the response to the issues that I intend to raise in my presentation – issues such as why the DNA Bill is taking so long to be reviewed; why the Portfolio Committee for Police believe that they need to embark on an overseas tour to convince themselves that DNA profiling for criminal intelligence has become the gold standard for solving crime worldwide and why the Police unions believe that private labs should not be asked to help process reference samples once the Bill has been passed.

Carte Blanche are also interviewing me at 2pm as they want to do a follow up on their last show which featured The DNA Project in August 2007 – they will hear about our National DNA Awareness Campaign, the launch of the DNA Forensic Degree at National Tertiary Institutions as well as the progression (or lack thereof!) of the DNA Bill through Parliament.

Carte Blanche with Vanessa Lynch at the FSS (UK) in Birmingham

I will be updating the Blog this week with feedback in respect of all the above, so keep an eye on this space.

Vanessa

About the Conference:

Crime continues to be a top public concern. South African cities, notably, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban have consistently high levels of crime. As a result it remains a top priority for government. Though rates fell from 2004, this reduction has leveled off in the last 5 years. The recession could well push crime rates back up again, with some areas already experiencing increases in burglaries, knife & fire-arms related-robberies.

Community safety and the landscape in which it is conducted will also be influenced by the political debates in the coming months. The major political parties have different policy plans to reduce crime. Early indications suggest police accountability will continue to be both a controversial topic and one on which there are different proposals from the main parties.

What’s on the Program?

• Hear from the government and the main opposition parties what their key community safety commitments are
• Learn how the police can increase public confidence
• Learn how councils and other government agencies can increase public confidence
• Examine the government’s program to reduce crime and anti-social behavior
• Explore what neighborhood policing would look like over the next five years
• Attend workshops exploring a wide range of issues related to community safety and policing

valuable commentary on a DNA Database as a crime fighting tool

Tue, Jan 26th, 2010

I have been doing a lot of reading over these last two weeks. It is my way of keeping up to date with the rapid advances in DNA technology which are taking place throughout the world – reading about these exciting developments instills me with hope, that one day, some day, soon, we too in South Africa will be able to publish our DNA ‘journey of advancement’ for other developing countries to read, admire and follow. There is so much information out there and so many exciting advances happening in this arena, all whilst we patiently wait for our Parliamentarians to review and deliberate our own DNA legislation… I have to bite down on my lip  in an effort not to scream out that we should be careful not to wait too long to pass this much needed law, or else we may be risking getting left a little too far behind… And in a country which boasts one of the highest crime rates and lowest conviction rates in the world, this seems a rather in-congruent state of affairs!Picture 5

But, there is a glimmer of hope – I have heard this week via the DNA helix (as opposed to the grapevine!), that the Portfolio Committee for Police, who were tasked with reviewing the DNA Bill, have been in Pretoria this week on a site visit to the Forensic Lab and that they may be taking a tour overseas some time soon to review and visit other Forensic DNA Labs. The secretary for the PC mentioned that the PC may reconvene on the legislation by the end of February, and it is hoped that the reviewing and touring of the other Labs would be complete by that time, so that they are able to get on with the important task at hand. After all, we are not reinventing the wheel here – DNA Databases and their use as a criminal investigative tool has become the international gold standard for investigating crime, and in a country where crime is one of our biggest problems, it makes sense to cement the legislative framework around which we can make this technology work for us in the most effective manner. (more…)

The time has come to make yourself HEARD!

Tue, Oct 13th, 2009


The time has come to make yourself HEARD!
Why? Because the Portfolio Committee on Police (National Assembly) has invited interested individuals and organisations to submit written submissions on the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (also referred to as the “DNA Bill”)

The adoption of the  DNA Bill now requires public submissions, and lots of them, commenting on the Bill – and it is here that each one of you reading this entry, must take a stand and make the time to email your submissions to jmichaels@parliament.gov.za by no later than 23 October 2009 as to why you think  it is fundamental that this law is passed in SA.  Your email will not be one in a string of unread emails that circulates endlessly, crying out for a change. Your email WILL EFFECT that change, and the more people you tell to comment on the Bill, the more chance we have of ensuring that the Bill is passed by Parliament in its final form.   If ever there was a time to tangibly make a difference in SA, it is now.  Please – make yourself heard.

Invitations for written submissions on the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill [B2- 2009] have now been called for. PLEASE make yourself heard and email your submissions to the Portfolio Committee on Police before 23 October 2009.

The Portfolio Committee on Police (National Assembly) has invited interested individuals and organisations to submit written submissions on the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill.

The Bill, in essence, addresses the following issues:

It deals with all aspects of collecting and using DNA in crime detection, especially the use of DNA profiles for criminal intelligence purposes.

It seeks to expand and upgrade the existing DNA database within the SAPS so as to improve the chances of matching a suspect to a crime scene.

The law will allow for DNA profiles to be uplifted from all convicted offenders retrospectively. This means that all criminals can have their DNA profiles taken before release from prison. If they re-offend a match can quickly be made between a crime scene and the offender.

It will also allow police officers (as opposed to registered medical practitioners), to easily uplift a DNA profile from everyone arrested, using a buccal (saliva) swab or finger prick, for entry onto the DNA Database.

It will allow SAPS access to the fingerprint databases held by the Departments of Transport and Home Affairs. This would provide the police with access to over 40 million fingerprints.

Comments can be emailed to Committee Secretary: Mr Jeremy Michaels at jmichaels@parliament.gov.za by no later than 23 October 2009

Enquiries: Mr Jeremy Michaels, tel. (021) 403-3806 / cell 083 709 8445

Issued by: Honourable LS Chikunga, Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Police

The Bill can also be viewed here: www.pmg.org.za/bill

DNA Project Newsletter, 11 Dec 2008

Thu, Dec 11th, 2008

Click here to download the The DNA Project Newsletter, 11 Dec 2008