Jan 30, 2014
DNA Act passed, mandatory DNA collection for serious crimes on the cardsBack
Africa|PROJECT|Africa|South Africa|Service|Vanessa Lynch|The Government Gazette
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The DNA Act has been signed by President Jacob Zuma and published in the Government Gazette, bringing to fruition a decade of work for Vanessa Lynch and her colleagues from The DNA Project.
An attorney by training, Lynch formed nongovernmental organisation The DNA Project to pursue the goal of establishing a DNA database within SAPS.
Matching a human being’s distinct genetic blueprint, their DNA, found on a crime scene, to an extensive database of offenders may seem like a simple exercise. Done in almost every crime series on television, and at law enforcement agencies in numerous countries around the world, it is hard to believe this has not been a reality in South Africa.
However, Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, No 37 of 2013, now, finally, changes this.
There are “busy times ahead, but so exciting”, says Lynch.
Prior to the new Act, there was no legislation regulating DNA collection by the SAPS, which meant it had no mandate to take DNA samples from those arrested for serious crimes, or from convicted offenders.
However, the new Act enables the establishment, regulation, administration and maintenance of what will be called the National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa.
It will make it mandatory for DNA samples to be collected by specially trained police officers from those arrested and convicted of serious offences.
If SAPS increases the number of profiles on its database, it will increase the chance of finding a match and linking a DNA profile found at a crime scene to a suspect, or, at the very least, deriving criminal intelligence therefrom.
Moreover, DNA profiles can also serve to exonerate convicted persons, as well as assist in the identification of missing persons and human remains.
Implementing the Act will require the training of police officers, as well as the appointment of additional forensic analysts.
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