DNA Legislation update

I was invited to attend and present at the 2nd Interpol Southern African Forensic DNA Conference held in Pretoria at the end of last year. As always, it is such an honour to be amongst some of the top forensic minds in the world today as well as listen to what the rest of the world is doing with DNA technology for criminal intelligence today. Heartening on one hand and sad on the other, as we are so crippled by the lack of political willpower in SA to make changes in our legislation which would enable us to more fully utilise our DNA database as a crime intelligence tool.

Dr Simon Walsh (Australia) presenting at the Interpol Conference in Pretoria, Dec 2011

Dr Simon Walsh (Australia) presenting at the Interpol Conference in Pretoria, Dec 2011

I met with the Secretariat of Police, Jenny Irish-Qhobosheane last week who has advised us that the draft policy document, upon which the new DNA Bill will be drafted, should be ready to be sent to us for our comment by the end of this week. Let’s see if that promise holds true.

In the meantime, it is significant to look at the progress of the DNA legislation in England and Wales following the Marper Judgement. Insp Stacey Dibbs ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) DNA Staff Officer, who presented at the Interpol Conference last year, informed us that they are expecting Royal Assent on the new draft legislation sometime before Easter 2012. However, she believes that implementation would take quite a lot longer. I have set out briefly below, the salient points of  Insp. Dibbs presentation which discussed the Impact of DNA legislation & the National DNA Database  in England and Wales. This is significant because our Portfolio Committee visited England last year with a view to understanding how they were going to deal with the Marper case judgment, which may have some bearing on what they plan to do with our legislation in SA.

For ease of reference, The National DNA Database in England and Wales is referred to below as the “NDNAD”:

Status of the UK DNA Database: in the wake of the Marper judgement:

NDNAD Governance:

The NDNAD is owned by ACPO – the Association of Chief Police Officers.The data held on the NDNAD is the property of the individual Chief Officers for each police force in the UK (Data Controller).

The operation of the NDNAD:
Under current legislation in England and Wales, DNA is taken on arrest for a recordable offence, in other words, any offence punishable with imprisonment.

The only DNA information from a person that is held on the NDNAD is the DNA profile along with the result of the male/female gender test. The DNA profile can then be searched against unidentified DNA profiles recovered from crime scenes or victims and this profile is retained on the NDNAD and provides a line of enquiry in the identification of a potential offender by generating matches with material recovered from crime scenes or victims.

In a typical month in the UK,  DNA profiles from approximately 3,200 crimes will match with individuals on the NDNAD, roughly split between 300 (9.4%) serious violent crimes and 2,900 (90.6%) acquisitive crime (burglary, vehicle crime etc)

NDNAD Overview:
The National DNA Database Delivery Unit operates the NDNAD.  The work of the Delivery Unit includes quality assurance of the work undertaken by forensic providers. The NDNAD continues to provide police with the most effective tool for the prevention and detection of crime.

Since 1998, more than 300,000 crimes have been detected with the aid of the Database, reassuring the public that offenders are more likely to be brought to justice. During 2008-09 there were 36,727 crimes with a DNA match (which includes cases where the individual had an innocent reason for being at the scene).

Statistics – Summary:
Profiles currently held on the NDNAD:
ca. 5.5 million individuals (end September 2011)
ca. 395,000 crime scene (end September 2011)

The Database provides the police typically with matches against around 800 crimes each week.
These are potential crime detections (Outputs not Outcomes):

When a crime scene profile is loaded to the Database, probability of obtaining an immediate match is over 60% (as of end September 2011)

Current Delivery Model:
The delivery model has grown organically since 1995. NDU now operate the following DNA database services:
National DNA Database
Police Elimination Database
Vulnerable Persons DNA Database
Missing Persons DNA Database
Each database is distinct and separate from the records held on the other DNA databases, but has the same level of security and control as the NDNAD.

Future delivery model:
National DNA Database
Automate all processes currently in operation
Allow flexibility to allow for collaboration between Scientific Support Units
Expand searches to include familial and mixed DNA searching against NDNAD
Explore the possibility to store the actual results rather than the numerical designations
Police Elimination Database
Vulnerable Persons DNA Database
Missing Persons DNA Database
Centralised Y-STR DNA Database
Centralised Partial Profiles Database
Co-ordinated Manufacturers Elimination Database service
Co-ordinated DVI DNA response service
Biometric Vetting of pre-employment recruits

The Results from the National DNA Database (NDNAD):

In a typical month in the UK DNA profiles from 3,000 crimes will match with individuals
on the NDNAD, roughly split between 10% from serious violent crimes and 90%
acquisitive crime

Cold Cases – Results from the re-examination of rapes cases in the MPS

364 cold cases submitted for re-examination
340 DNA profiles obtained that were not from the victim
198 matches to suspects; 63 have been prosecuted, 45 pleaded guilty and 18 convicted by
a jury
12 outstanding unsolved linked series profiles

NDNAD Legislation

Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 is the Legal Foundation

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) 1994 is the framework for Database existence and Operational procedures

Changes in the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998, Access to personal data restricted to authorised persons and Individual can request own information held on Database

Comments are closed.