DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here!

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?


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.

5 Responses to “DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here!”

  1. Sophia Wiese says:

    Good morning Vanessa!

    I was watching Carte Blanche last night and was astonished to learn that we do not have formal laws regarding DNA being presented in court as evidence. I wish I could assist in this project, but I am not qualified!! Currently I am a lecturer at a private college in LIMPOPO in NC (V) Safety in Society and thoroughly enjoy the course. I do think that the urgency of this matter should be highlighted in the press/media. I am sure Chantall Rutter (Carte Blanche) would be able to supply you with contact numbers of certain publications in SA, especially the Pretoria Press Association, where most of these journalists are members. You can ask the president of the association to become a speaker at one of their monthly gatherings.

    I wish you all of the best in your endeavours and hope the hear soon that the necessary legislation have been approved by Parliament and the Constitutional Court. As a citizen of SA, I would also like to thank you for working on this important matter. Anyone can be affected where DNA should used in a court of law, so EVERYONE should be aware of the importance of this law.

    Good luck!!
    Sophia Wiese

  2. From: Dian Cronje [mailto:dianc@da.org.za] On Behalf Of Leader (Zille)
    Sent: 16 August 2010 10:56 AM
    To: Dianne Kohler Barnard
    Subject: FW: DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here – why?

    Hi Dianne,
    Hope you are doing well!
    Can you maybe please comment on any developments pertaining to the Forensic Procedures Amendment Bill? Would like to reply to below email.
    Many thanks for your time.
    Dian Cronje
    Public Liaison Officer
    Democratic Alliance National Leaders Office
    Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

    On 16 Aug 2010, at 12:00 PM, Dianne Kohler Barnard wrote:
    Hello again Vanessa,
    We are in the process of handling two bills – the ICD and the Secretariatbills, after which we are scheduled to visit global leaders in DNA sampling and storage (Canada and the UK) in October to inform us irt the processing of the other half of the bill. The fingerprint section has already been passed.
    082 8237047

    From: Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project [mailto:vanessalynch@dnaproject.co.za]
    Sent: 17 August 2010 01:18 PM
    Cc: Dianne Kohler Barnard; Leader
    Subject: Re: DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here – why?
    Hi Diane
    Finally I have some feedback, thank you.
    I was advised by the Research Committee however that the tour in October has been postponed to January… is this true?
    It would be great to have some transparency which I will then post onto the website as I am constantly being asked “what is happening to the Bill?”.
    Thanks very much.

    On 17 Aug 2010, at 2:58 PM, Dianne Kohler Barnard wrote:

    Finally? I received your e mail, I answered it. I don’t know about any delay in the trip because I’ve been too busy to ask – as I’m spending day after day doing legislation irt the ICD and the Secretariat. I’m not hiding anything – nor is anyone else, I assure you.

    From: Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project
    Date: 17 August 2010 3:17:42 PM
    To: Dianne Kohler Barnard
    Cc: Leader
    Subject: Re: DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here – why?

    Hello Diane
    Not finally from you – it is ‘finally’ a response from someone. Honestly, every angle I tried was met with “I don’t know”. I did leave a message on your phone too. And now the Research Committee tells me the tour has moved to January 2011 – so I am interested in knowing if this is true and why? The Bill has also been in Parliament since 2008, and despite numerous statements of ‘urgency’ from the previous and current Chairlady of the respective PC, it is still pending, so a level of frustration from our organisation as well as countless members of the public, is understandable.

    I appreciate your response however and am pleased that you nor anyone else is hiding anything, not that I suggested you were.
    If you can however suggest a person, or perhaps you could please tell me the date the PC intends to resume deliberations on the 2nd phase of the Bill as well as the intended dates for the overseas tour, I would be most grateful.
    Thank you.
    Kind regards

    From: “Dianne Kohler Barnard”
    Date: 18 August 2010 7:37:31 AM
    To: “‘Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project'”
    Subject: RE: DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here – why?

    Hi again…

    The trip has indeed been delayed until January because the outgoing Secretary to the committee failed to fill in the correct forms and submit them timeously. Our Chair went to the Chair of Chairs to attempt to have the trip approved, but failed. So now we do the UK and Canada in mid Jan. If it is approved according to budget.

    There was no attempt at non-transparency, merely a glitch on the part of an official.

    From: Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project [mailto:vanessalynch@dnaproject.co.za]
    Sent: 24 August 2010 03:29 PM
    To: Dianne Kohler Barnard

    Thanks Diane. Rather disappointing that it all boils down to an office error.
    A few questions
    1. why do you have to wait to go on an overseas trip before looking at the
    Bill? The review of Phase two of the Bill can surely continue in the
    2. has part two of the Bill been redrafted by the state attorneys as
    requested in the beginning of the year and if not why and when will it be
    ready for review by the public?
    3. how many people will be going on the overseas tour to Canada and the UK?
    4. what do you hope to achieve in the UK and Canada?
    with thanks

    On 24 Aug 2010, at 4:56 PM, Dianne Kohler Barnard wrote:

    Hi Vanessa,

    The Parliamentary process allows for extensive research on targeted subjects, and as such we intend to study international best practice in this regard.

    As I have already told you, we are currently going through two other bills – the new ICD Bill and the Secretariat Bill. All Bills entail public hearings, and weeks of deliberations with law advisors and other experts.

    I have no idea, we are focusing on the job at hand.

    I have no idea who is going – why – and what difference would it make?

    See above.


    From: Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project
    Date: 26 August 2010 10:49:30 AM
    To: Dianne Kohler Barnard

    Thanks Diane.
    As International Best Practice is your targeted approach, I had suggested to the Parliamentary Research Committee that they look at somebody attending the International DNA Congress which is being held in Lyon (France) in September. What better place to in fact learn not only what IBP is amongst more than just 2 countries, but to discuss a range of issues from ethics to legislation to databases amongst global experts specialising in this area of the law. Even if one portfolio committee delegate attends this congress it would surely be useful. As it appears from your response below that it is irrelevant who is going on the planned overseas tour, then I would assume the same applies to sending at least one member to the congress who could report back to the committee on what was discussed and give a broader view of IBP’s to the rest of the committee. Just a thought!

    From: Barnard D Kohlar
    Date: 26 August 2010 11:04:31 AM
    To: Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project
    Subject: RE: DNA Laws are being passed everywhere but here – why?


    I’ll raise it with the Chair.

    re Who will go on the study tour, its not irrelevant but determined by parliamentary procedure…ie x number from ANC, x from DA, maybe 1 from a collection of the small parties etc.



  3. Beverley Lewis says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    Just wondered whether you’d thought of making this issue more public i.e. contacting 702 to talk to them about this initiative as an example …