Have you voted on our Poll yet?

We have upgraded our website to include a Poll which will change periodically and invite your opinions on certain issues. This week’s Poll asks you to tell us whether you would volunteer your DNA profile for inclusion on the National DNA Database?

What is the issue?

The use of DNA in criminal intelligence is often misunderstood by Human Rights Groups, which immediately presume that the DNA of an individual is being used for purposes other than Criminal Intelligence. Some fears include that information on a person’s medical disposition to diseases will be given to insurance companies.

These fears are however groundless as:

(i) A DNA profile is stored on the DNA database as a sequence of numbers, which simply act as a unique identifier.

(ii) The DNA Profile is obtained from a set of 10 markers located in the ‘junk’ or ‘non-coded DNA’, ensuring that no genetic disposition or other distinguishing feature may be read from the profile. Just as one cannot tell from looking at a fingerprint, whether the owner of that print has a pre-disposition to cancer, this principle applies equally to a DNA profile that has been processed for entry onto a DNA database.  This is because the STR loci used in crime detection have no biological function, so this kind of information does not become available to the profiler. Furthermore, many genes and numerous environmental factors determine most diseases and behavioral tendencies. So it is very unlikely that a mere correlation between a non-coding region of DNA (STR) and a physical or behavioral characteristic will allow anyone to accurately predict these conditions.

(iii) The purpose for which a DNA profile may be used is limited by law to the detection of crime, the investigation of crime or the conduct of a prosecution and, most importantly, to the entry of the DNA profile onto the DNA database. The presence of a DNA profile on a National DNA database does not constitute nor signify a criminal record nor does it impact on the individual in any way, particularly if that individual has no intention of ever committing a crime.

(iv) Regulatory bodies rigorously monitor quality assurance to ensure reliability and accuracy of collection, analysis and interpretation of DNA evidence.

The way in which DNA is collected from a person or suspect is non invasive and involves a simple buccal swab or finger prick. If we consider that we already allow the police to demand a breath or blood sample where the person is suspected of impaired driving, then taking a swab from a person’s mouth is no more intrusive than taking a breath or blood sample.

The retention and further analysis of an individual’s DNA sample is a more sensitive matter, as it is possible to sequence the entirety of a person’s genetic make-up, obtaining information of a personal nature. It is for this reason that proposed new legislation in South Africa should not allow for the retention of samples taken from suspects, once a full DNA profile has been obtained and loaded onto the DNA Database. In contrast, a crime scene sample will form part of the evidence used to build a case and aid in an investigation, and, as such, it must be retained indefinitely in the same way as any other form of ‘real’ evidence such as a bullet casing or a weapon found at a crime scene.

Individuals have an expectation of privacy regarding their DNA information. However, in countries such as South Africa, where crime levels are unacceptably high, the state and human rights organizations have recognized that a person’s right to privacy has to be weighed up against the public’s right to safety. The protection of the public from criminals is an obligation of the state and the authority to take a DNA sample, from someone arrested on suspicion of a crime, should thus be warranted as it furthers the state’s ability to detect and prevent criminal activity.

What do you think?


4 Responses to “Have you voted on our Poll yet?”

  1. I don’t see any poll on your website.

  2. Stuart says:

    yes – but where are the buttons to simply click yes/ no?

    • Vanessa says:

      You need to click on the yes or no button and then click on submit. If you have already voted, it will not allow you to vote again and the submit button will not appear.