Summary of Parliament meetings: DNA Bill

These last three weeks have seen the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police hard at work deliberating over and debating the various provisions of the DNA Bill, listening to various Civilian Society Groups (The DNA Project included) present their opinions on the DNA Bill and why it should be passed as well as hear from a selection of Government Departments as to how they intend to assist the FSL (Forensic Science Lab) in ensuring the successful implementation of the DNA Bill post its enactment.

Vanessa Lynch and Carolyn Hancock in the National Assembly, Old Chamber before presenting to the Portfolio Committee

Vanessa Lynch and Carolyn Hancock in the National Assembly before presenting to the Portfolio Committee

Initial discussions around the DNA Bill were concluded last week as Parliament broke for their winter recess. These discussions will resume on the 24 July 2013, at which time a new, cleaned up version of the DNA Bill is expected to be presented by the State Legal Advisor to the Committee, taking into account all of the considerations debated by and presented to the Committee over the last few weeks.

In a nutshell, these are some of the issues raised as well as an indication of some of the provisions which we should expect to appear in the final draft of the DNA Bill:

1. Specific members of the Police force will be nominated and thereafter trained by medical practitioners to take buccal swabs (‘non intimate’ DNA reference samples) from arrestees of schedule one offences.

2. Convicted offenders will have their DNA samples taken by medical practitioners or registered nurses working at the relevant Correctional Services facility in which they have been imprisoned. This provision will be retrospective.

3. All reference samples will be destroyed after a DNA profile has been obtained and entered onto the DNA Database. Crime Scene samples, being crime scene evidence will not be destroyed.

4. Convicted Offenders’ DNA profile’s will be held indefinitely on the DNA Database.

5. Arrestees’ DNA profiles will be removed within three months after that person has been acquitted or after their conviction has been set aside or within three years if the prosecution does not proceed with the case at that time. If the arrestee’s case results in a conviction, that profile will be migrated to the Convicted Offenders’ index.

6. An additional Index, the ‘Missing Persons and Unidentified Human Remains Index’ will be added to the five Indices already proposed in the Bill (namely the Convicted Offender, Arrestee, Elimination, Crime Scene and Volunteer Indices).

7. A National Forensic Ethics Oversight Board will be formed which will be responsible for Ethical oversight as well as implementation of the Bill. The composition of this Board is still to be decided but will not be weighted in favour of Government, but rather in favour of Civilian Society.

8. Strict Penalties to be imposed (maximum of 15 years imprisonment without the option of a fine) for any abuse or misuse of any information entered onto the DNA Database.

9. The Fingerprint and new DNA legislation must be aligned.

10. Post conviction testing to be legislated for exoneration purposes.

The beautiful Old Assembly Chamber in the original National Assembly Building , Parliament, Cape Town

The beautiful Old Assembly Chamber in the original National Assembly Building , Parliament, Cape Town

Issues which are still to be determined and discussed:

i. Who will be the custodian of the Database?

ii. Which software solution will be implemented to manage the DNA Database [SITA vs CODIS?];

iii. The composition of the Forensic Ethical Oversight Board and the appointment of its Chair;

iv. Details of additional Implementation plans and strategies post enactment;

v. Familial searching: a specific exclusion except when tracing missing persons;

vi. Forensic Awareness programmes.

For a detailed account of what was discussed in the various Committee meetings please click on the below links:



Discussions DNA Bill (1) 18 Jun 2013

Discussions DNA Bill (2)  19 Jun 2013

Discussions DNA Bill (3) 20 Jun 2013

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