Archive for the ‘DNA Act’ Category


2015 International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI)

Mon, Oct 12th, 2015

In its 26th year, ISHI is the largest conference on forensic DNA analysis in the world and will take place from October 12 – October 15, in Grapevine, Texas (US).

Following her presentation at last year’s ISHI, Vanessa was invited to return this year and will be presenting a talk (Wednesday, October 14) entitled “Investigation of a Ruthless Rapist” – which will focus on the identification and conviction of Albert Morake, a ruthless South African serial rapist who committed 30 rapes between 2007 until his capture in 2012.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person to be exonerated from death row through post-conviction DNA testing, and will open the symposium by sharing his story. Bloodsworth spent nine years in prison and more than two years on death row before DNA evidence identified the true perpetrator of the 1984 rape and murder for which he was imprisioned. Today, Bloodsworth is an advocate for the wrongfully convicted and speaks publicly to highlight the risk of wrongful convictions and dangers of the death penalty.

ISHI 26 includes presentations from leading professionals in the fields of forensic DNA analysis, genomics, forensic anthropology, medical molecular diagnostics, law enforcement and more.

Filmmaker Alexa Barrett and Sara Huston Katsanis, a Science & Society Initiative Instructor at Duke University, will be presenting The Living Disappeared, an exploration of how DNA is being used to prevent child trafficking. Their presentation will include a brief preview of Barrett’s film by the same name.

Phenotyping, which utilizes DNA evidence to help predict what a suspect might look like, will be explored from multiple angles. Ellen Greytak, Director of Bioinformatics at Parabon NanoLabs, will present DNA Phenotyping: Predicting Ancestry and Physical Appearance from Forensic DNA, and David Ballard, a research associate in forensic genetics and senior scientist at King’s College London, will present DNA Phenotyping: What Can and Should We Predict?

Other presenters include: Marie Allen (Uppsala University, Sweden), Bruce Budowle (Institute of Applied Genetics), Thomas Callaghan (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Douglas Hares (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Rock Harmon (retired, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office), George Herrin (Georgia Bureau of Investigation), CeCe Moore (Institute for Genetic Genealogy), Fredy Peccerelli (Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala) and Jim Thomson (LGC).

This year’s event also includes more than 140 scientific posters including a submission by Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist, who will share her work exposing false Holocaust accounts. Fitzpatrick is also collaborating on the recently re-opened “Somerton Man” case, which involves the exhumation of a 45-year-old John Doe who died under mysterious circumstances and washed up on a beach fully clothed in Adelaide, Australia, in 1948.

In addition to the 3-day series of general session presentations, optional small group workshops are available, including:

  • Analyzing and Utilizing Data from Next-Generation Sequencers in the Forensic Genomics Era
  • Forensic Mixtures: Assessment, Analysis and Technology: Current Methods, New Approaches and Disruptive Technologies
  • Advanced Methods for DNA Based Identification of Skeletal Remains Countdown to 2017: Internal Validation of the New CODIS Loci
  • DNA Identification Strategies for Skeletal Remains and Other Challenging Samples

A complete list of workshops, speaker biographies, the ISHI blog and ongoing program updates are available at the symposium website:

This symposium for forensic experts and suppliers is offered through Promega Corporation, a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry. Founded in 1978, the company is headquartered in Madison, WI, USA, with branches in 16 countries and over 50 global distributors. For more information about Promega, visit

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

Fri, Jun 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.

SAPS report on CJS modernisation, ICDMS and DNA Act implementation

Fri, May 29th, 2015

On the 13th of May 2015 the Portfolio Committee on Police was briefed in the National Assembly by the SAPS on the quarterly reports on the implementation of the: Criminal Justice System (CJS) Modernisation; Integrated Case Docket Management System (ICDMS); and the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, 2013 (DNA Act).

Please find below a brief summary of the meeting and to view the full meeting minutes, please click here.

Meeting Summary:

The Committee met with SAPS senior management, including the National Commissioner, to be briefed on the progress of various SAPS technology services including the modernisation for the Criminal Justice System (CJS), the Integrated Case Docket Management System (ICDMS), the Integrated Justice System (IJS), Forensic Science Laboratory Division (FSL) as well as a briefing on the status of implementation of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, otherwise known as the DNA Act of 2013.

The Committee Researcher first provided a background on the systems and projects, monitoring and oversight of them, and the 2014/15 budget and expenditure for them.

The Committee was briefed by SAPS on the Criminal Justice System (CJS) where attention was paid to the planned quarterly budget allocation vs. actual expenditure for 2014/15 and the status of milestone deliverables achieved. The specific projects discussed covered: capacitation and modernisation of criminal record centre component, automated fingerprint ID replacement and maintenance, replacement of stolen equipment at provincial level record centres in Springs and Vryburg, provision of end user equipment for newly appointed criminal record centre members, audio visual and video conferencing, electronic plan drawing, facial compilation and the maintenance of biometric enhancement solutions. Other projects included additional devices for enhancement and presentation of digital latent prints, additional devices for panoramic image capturing cameras, integration with the HANIS system of Home Affairs, decentralisation of JUDDIS (Judicial Document Image Storage System), reprioritised criminal record centre projects for 2014/15, capacitation and modernisation of forensic science laboratories, ballistic interface unit capabilities and closed circuit TV and access control. Also included in the presentation was end user equipment for forensic science labs, bar code printers for Cape Town and Arcadia, scanners for police stations for implementation of the DNA Act, procurement of iPads, high resolution cameras for scientific unit analysis, X-Ray devices, semi-automated DNA isolation instruments in the DNA crime lane, scientific data management system upgrades and expert system and expert system assistance systems. Further projects outlined was radio frequency identification, mobile cyanoacrylate fuming system, tyre tread mark ID system, capacitation and modernisation of provincial, cluster, police stations and national division, end user equipment deployment and configuration, capacitation and modernisation of detective services, voice recorded, expansion of digital extraction devices, capacitation and modernisation of Visible Policing, mobile connectivity devices (field terminal devices) expansion and maintenance, capacitation and modernisation of protection and security services and video wall nerve centre (war room) maintenance.

Members noted the pattern of vital and instrumental projects stalling halfway because of other processes and questioned the effect of this on SAPS functions such as convictions and arrests. Questions included the sequence of operations in terms of funding, capacity problems in the sector, integration of databases across ministries in terms of the SAPS Act, how milestones achieved were determined, capacitation of detectives in terms of e-dockets, communication between SAPS and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and if the challenges of the SAPS anti-rhino poaching unit in the Kruger National Park had been taken into consideration. Other Members thought while all the information was useful, there needed to be a frank discussion, with all the other relevant stakeholders who seemed to be dragging their feet, on what the real problems were, where the blockages were inhibiting progress on these projects, and the need to look at the percentage of projects satisfactorily completed to assess the results of the funds. There were requests for updates on TETRA (digital police radio system), Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the video wall nerve centre. Other issues raised were about the needed links with court systems for seamless operability, improvement on the matter of very expensive equipment in the Pretoria forensic lab not being used or dismantled, and the readiness of SAPS to implement the DNA Act in terms of capacity and equipment.

SAPS provided a progress report on the implementation of the DNA Act. An overview of the Act and its objectives was given, along with DNA collection and processing, functions of the DNA Board and detail on the key focus areas of the Act.

The next SAPS presentation was on the expenditure for the IJS projects for 2014/15 along with financial achievements and milestones delivered for these projects. These projects included the Property Control and Exhibit Management (PCEM), detention management systems, identity and access management, national photo image systems, facial recognition systems, disaster victim identification, ICDMS case administration, action request for services, service integration bus, SAPS service orientated architecture advancement and field terminal devices front and back end development.

The Committee decided it was best to continue a thorough discussion on this particular topic on 10 June along with other relevant stakeholders with the intention of identifying which areas needed to be unblocked for progress to be made.

Thousands of detectives now trained to handle DNA

Thu, 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

Infographic: What are DNA profiles used for?

Mon, May 4th, 2015

Thanks to SciBraai and Anina Mumm for sharing this infographic with us.

DNA profiling has revolutionised criminal justice globally and in South Africa. The graphic below was created in 2012, to accompany a feature on the potential promise and pitfalls of a DNA database as set out in the then ‘DNA Bill’.


Forensic DNA Regulations in Place

Wed, Mar 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

Tue, Feb 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.


Vanessa Lynch, Founder & Executive Director of The DNA Project

SAPS Press conference on DNA legislation – Media invitation

Tue, Feb 3rd, 2015



To:     All media


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

DNA Act becomes operational from 31 January 2015

Sat, Jan 31st, 2015

Commencement of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act (37/2013)

Wed, Dec 31st, 2014

What a wonderful end to an exciting year!!!

In a proclamation published in the Government Gazette on the 30th of December 2014 (Vol. 594 | No. 38376), the President has stated the 31st of January 2015 as the date on which the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 shall come into operation with the exception of section 2 (to the extent that it inserts section 36D(1) in the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1977)).

Additional note: Section 2 of the ‘DNA Act’ deals with the insertion of 36D (“Powers in respect of buccal samples, bodily samples and crime scene samples”) and 36E (“Samples for investigation purposes”) into the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 and in particular, 36D(1) refers to the mandatory taking of a buccal sample from a Schedule 8 arrestee by the SAPS or bodily sample by a registered medical practitioner or registered nurse.

Please click here to view a PDF copy of Government Gazette Vol. 594 | No. 38376.

Government Gazette Vol. 594 | No. 38376