Archive for the ‘Press’ Category


Draft of forensic DNA regulations published for public comment

Tue, Oct 14th, 2014

Under Section 15AD of the South African Police Service Act, draft regulations outlining how the South African Police Service (SAPS) will be allowed to take DNA samples from suspects have been drawn up in terms of Section 6 of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act of 2013 [the “DNA ACT”].

These draft regulations were published on the 9th of October 2014 in Government Gazette 38074 for public comment.

All interested parties have been invited to comment on the draft regulations within 21 days of the publication – i.e. by no later than the 30th of October 2014.

Comments must be made in writing and directed to:

Brigadier M van Rooyen
Legal Services: Governance, Policy and Legislation Management
South African Police Service

E-mail address:

Fax number: (012) 393 7098

Street address:
Room No. 311
3rd Floor
Presidia Building
255 Pretorius Street
Cr. Paul Kruger and Pretorius Street

To view a PDF copy of Government Gazette 38074, please click here.

To view a PDF summary of the DNA Act, please click here.

Once the submissions have been received and considered, the draft regulations will be submitted to the Minister of Police for approval.

The draft regulations focus on, inter alia:

  • The taking of a buccal sample;
  • The keeping of records in respect of collected buccal and crime scene samples;
  • 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 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;
  • Information technology infrastructure and systems; and
  • Requests for removal of DNA profiles.

DNA Act a monumental step forward for SA

Fri, Feb 14th, 2014

The promulgation of the new DNA Act in January was a “monumental step forward” for South Africa as the nation battled high levels of crime, but an easy implementation should not be expected, writes Natasha Odendaal for Engineering News, 13 February 2014.


DNA in the Courtroom

Wed, Aug 3rd, 2011

If you are reading this blog, then we have to assume that at the very least, you have recognised that DNA profiling in a criminal context has fast become the most powerful criminal justice tool used in the world today and is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. The DNA Project certainly recognises this fact and in its national effort to create DNA awareness in SA, we have extended our awareness campaign beyond just the crime scene, to include awareness in our justice system. Without convictions, all the hard work at ground level may also be set to fail, because it is not used expeditiously in a case where it could potentially provide one of the strongest forms of evidence to link the suspect to the crime scene.

However, to ensure DNA’s optimum use in criminal proceedings, it is imperative that criminal justice litigators are properly conversant with the scientific basis and presentation of such evidence, as well as with its potential usefulness in criminal cases. As such, the DNA Project is hosting and funding the its first Legal workshop tomorrow for the Western Cape Branch of the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority). Over 60 prosecutors will be present as well as representatives from the Legal Aid Board and the Department of Justice. The aim of this course is to form a bridge between the science of DNA and the legal aspects of DNA evidence. It will provide criminal justice litigators with the necessary information not only to understand the significance of DNA evidence, but also to successfully adduce, recognize and if necessary, challenge the validity of such evidence in court.

Below is a brief outline of the issues which will be covered in the full day course:

Part One: Overview of DNA Profiling – Prof. Valerie Corfield

A single cigarette butt left at the scene of a robbery and murder has led to the conviction of a 24-year-old man

1.1 The science underlying DNA profiling — what does a profile look like, how does a DNA database work for criminal intelligence and the latest developments in this field.
1.2 Collection of samples for DNA Purposes: sample taking in terms of the current CPA and proposed sample taking in terms of the new Draft Bill
1.3 SAPS FSL Disclosure Policies

Part Two: The DNA Bill – Ms Vanessa Lynch

4.1 An overview of current legislation regulating DNA collection, analysis and use in the courtroom
4.2 An introduction to the draft DNA Bill and its impact on the way in which DNA profiles will be regulated in SA

Part Three: DNA in the Courtroom – Dr Andra le Roux Kemp
3.1 The significance of a Match and whether it ought to be challenged
3.2 Constitutionality of section 212
3.3 Evaluation of evidence: the possible grounds upon which challenges to the weight of DNA evidence can be made
3.4 Defense and prosecution fallacies

Part Four: Pre-trial Issues – Lt Col. Sharlene Otto
2.1 Interpreting the lab report
2.2 Meaning of a match
2.3 Important Questions to ask in preparation for trail

The presenters:

Professor Valerie Corfield,  BSc Hons Botany (Bristol, UK); MSc Cell Biology (Wright Sate University, USA); PhD Genetics (University of the Witwatersrand).Medical scientist, Department of Medical Biosciences, Stellenbosch University. Professor Corfield’s research focus is the molecular genetics of inherited heart disease. She has published extensively and is rated as a scientist with international recognition by the National Research Foundation, for which she serves on several committees. Now semi-retired from her academic position, she delivers lectures and develops and presents interactive workshops which engage the general public in a greater understanding of science and appreciation of its societal implications. Activities include DNA and its applications in forensics. She holds a Wellcome Trust International Engagement award in biomedicine and presents workshops for The DNA Project, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement and Science Centres across South Africa.

Ms Vanessa Lynch BA (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal) LLB (UCT), Founder and Executive Director of the DNA Project. Ms. Lynch qualified as an attorney from UCT in 1993. She left her position as a Commercial attorney in 2005 in order to undertake the work of the DNA Project on a full-time basis and is now the Executive Director of this organisation. She founded the DNA Project following the brutal murder of her father in 2004 after seeking a way in which to meaningfully contribute towards the alleviation of crime in South Africa in a manner which was significant, achievable, tangible and would ultimately have a long term impact towards negating the high crime rate in S.A. An assessment of successful criminal justice systems all pointed to one obvious solution: the abatement of crime in other countries was ultimately achieved through the implementation and development of a National DNA Criminal Intelligence Database. In an effort to emulate this success in South Africa, she established a non-profit organisation to practically address the crime situation in South Africa through the expanded use of DNA evidence in conjunction with South Africa’s National DNA Database.

Dr Andra le Roux-Kemp
BA, LLB (Stell), CML (UNISA), LLD (Stell). Adv of the High Court of South Africa; Part-time lecturer at Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Law. Dr Andra le Roux-Kemp obtained the BA, LLB and LLD degrees from Stellenbosch University and a postgraduate certificate in Medicine and Law from UNISA. Her primary area of interest and expertise relate to particular themes in Criminal Justice and Medical- and Health Law. She has published both locally and is the author of the recently published book Law, Power and the Doctor-Patient Relationship: A Legal Perspective (2011). She is a member of the South African Medico-Legal Society (SAMLS) and the Criminological and Victimological Society of South Africa (CRIMSA) and teaches a LLM module in Legal Medicine annually at Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Law.

Lieutenant Colonel Sharlene Otto: CHIEF FORENSIC ANALYST and REPORTING OFFICER – Biology Unit of the Forensic Science Laboratory (SAPS, Cape Town) Lt Col. Otto has a B. Sc.-degree, with Botany and Zoology as majors from the UFS as well as  a Higher Teaching Diploma and has been attached to the Biology Unit of the Forensic Science Laboratory since November 1993.  Since that time she has received intensive training in serology and various DNA-technique, statistics, STR’s and has attended and presented at both national and international DNA conferences. Sharelene has been involved in the DNA analysis of biological evidentiary samples since 1996 and since November 1997 she has been involved in the STR-analysis of these samples. During October 2003. Lt Col. Otto takes part in both internal and external proficiency tests on a regular basis all of which have completed them all successfully.  In total, Lt Col. Otto has 25 years experience in the biological sciences and is one of South Africa’s most experienced and valuable DNA Forensic Experts.

The DNA Project has funded this DNA Awareness workshop with funds raised to promote DNA Awareness in SA. The DNA Project wishes to thank the Change a Life Trust and Juta for their kind sponsorship towards this workshop.

For more information contact

The best Valentine’s Day Invite

Fri, Feb 18th, 2011

A strange topic you may think? Especially, if like me, you are not a fan of Valentine’s Day and all that it encompasses. However, having just landed in Cape Town from a trip to JHB last week, I received a call from General Phahlane, the Divisional Commissioner of the Forensic Lab, requesting that I please come and present at a Strategic Planning and Management Session in Mpumalanga on Monday, 14 Feb 2011. Now you can understand why it was the best Valentine’s Day invitation I have ever received!

Gen Phahlane & Col. Lindie Traut from the FSL with Willie Scholtz from the CJS

The purpose of the work session was to review the progress made with revamping the CJS and to plan the way forward with regard to the CJS within the FSL for the 2011/2012 fiscal Year. The work session formed part of the ongoing strategic planning processes currently underway in the Forensic Science Division, which is being spearheaded by its new head, Gen. Phahlane. My brief was to present to the Planning Team, The DNA Project’s overview of where we believe funds allocated to the FSL by the CJSR (Criminal Justice System Review – which you will recall was given R3bn over 3yrs) would be best spent in the forthcoming fiscal year, with a view to expanding the National DNA Database.  What a brief! The Planning Team consisted not only of the Divisional Head of the FSL, but the head of the FSL and the LCRC and all of its top management staff. It was an honour to be invited to be part of this Session and an opportunity finally to be able to present all of our hard work and research over the last few years to such a focused group of people. In addition, the new management team of the FSL are one of the most hard working and dynamic group of people I have come across and they view the work of The DNA Project as an integral part of the review process, as opposed to an opposition group with a hidden agenda. For the first time in many years, Carolyn (who accompanied me to the session) and I felt that the tides had changed insofar as the FSL recognising the critical role it plays in the resolution of crime in South Africa.

The hour long presentation I gave was received with enthusiasm and most importantly, support. In a nutshell, The DNA Project believe the 3 key areas which need to be addressed are (1) Legislation (2) Capacity and (3) Awareness. The below slide, which come out of my presentation, captures the “How” we believe this can be achieved in SA:

Re: Legislation – despite the PC dragging their heels and insisting on embarking upon their overseas trip, the FSL are two steps ahead and have already implemented extensive strategies to increase their capacity by commencing on the building of two more National Labs in KZN and the Eastern cape – by de-centralising the Pretroia Lab, it will mean that provincial cases do not clog up the Pretoria process lines and obviously will result in an increase in samples loaded. Hand in hand with this development, they believe fully in training and awareness at the crime scene. As such, we have their support in promoting the Forensic Hons degree they have helped us develop and they will be participating in lectures at the tertiary institutions offering this course. As the FSL capacity increases, they envisage employing at least another 750 analysts and as such, the more skilled analysts they can employ the better. These strategies will ensure that the FSL’s implementation plan which they will need to prepare for Parliament, will have substance and vision, two elements key to the successful execution of the DNA Bill, when passed.

But mot importantly, where The DNAP and the FSL can work together in the most critical way, is through awareness at the crime scene – I spoke of a chain being as strong as its weakest link – and this means that with all of the above strategies in place, all will fail if we cannot collect the DNA evidence left at the crime scene by the perpetrator/s. We only have one chance to do this, and this is where the public/private partnership comes into play. If we can continue to create DNA Awareness and the importance of crime scene preservation amongst the general public and sectors of the community such as within private security companies, paramedics, trauma centres, justice and schools, then they can implement training and awareness amongst Crime Scene Examiners and first responding police officers.

This leads me to my final point which is that the expansion of the National DNA Database in South Africa, and its use as a crime intelligence tool (i.e. investigations driven by DNA, rather than DNA being considered simply a piece of evidence) requires the interplay between Justice, SAPS and the FSL and….the public – which is us, The DNA Project and YOU!

All of the above points made sense to the Planning Team and even more encouraging is that they were excited about some of the ideas I presented. We left the following day with renewed hope and energy and trust in our hearts, that the new management team are going to get it right and not just right, but they are willing and able to take DNA and its potential as an evidentiary tool, to a new level in SA. The Planning Session continued over the next couple of days, and we look forward to hearing how the 2011/2012 fiscal year is going to unfold. I have no doubt that it will be a space worth watching out for….

It was indeed a “Happy Valentine’s Day” – let’s hope in this case, all our dreams come true!


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

Die Burger 22/10/2010

Fri, Oct 22nd, 2010

Misdadigers in SA word beskerm, hoor Interpol

Beeld: 22/10/2010 – Voorlegging deur SA vrou onstel afgevaardigdes

Fri, Oct 22nd, 2010

DNS-voorlegging deur SA vrou ontstel afgevaardigdes

City Press 17/10/2010

Sun, Oct 17th, 2010

New Ultra Fast DNA machine not wired for SA

Weekend Argus, 16/10/2010

Sat, Oct 16th, 2010

SA way behind on DNA files

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.


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.


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.


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.