DNA! ‘Do Not Abscond’ from opportunity to curb crime

[notice]A monthly column by Marcel van der Watt, lecturer in the Department of Police Practice at UNISA, former police detective, and current member of the Gauteng Rapid Response Task Team for Human Trafficking.[/notice]

dnaA time to act has arrived. The goal of this month’s article is simply to spur you on towards a tangible and significant contribution against something that affects us all in South Africa – CRIME. The opportunity and facts are as follows:

WHAT?
You have until Friday, May 31, 2013 to make your voice heard in favour of the new DNA legislation, officially known as THE CRIMINAL LAW (FORENSIC PROCEDURES) AMENDMENT BILL [B9-2013]. The Portfolio Committee on Police extends an invitation to all interested people and stakeholders to submit written comments. The following is an extract from the call for public submissions:

The Bill aims to amend the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, so as to provide for the taking of specific bodily samples from certain categories of persons, for the purpose of forensic DNA analysis; to provide for the conditions under which the samples or forensic DNA profiles derived from the samples may be retained, or the periods within which they may be destroyed; to further regulate proof of certain facts by affidavit or certificate; to amend the South African Police Service Act, 1995, to establish and regulate the administration and maintenance of the National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa; to amend the Firearms Control Act, 2000, so as to further regulate the powers in respect of bodily samples for investigation purposes, and to amend the Explosives Act, 2003, so as to further regulate the power in respect of bodily samples for investigation purpose; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

WHY?
It can be argued that DNA evidence is the lifeblood for any successful conviction in crimes which include contact crimes such as rape and murder, or any other crime where the linkage between the accused person and the crime scene is disputed. Decker (2013) highlights that proponents of the bill say it has the potential to help police take violent criminals off South Africa’s streets. “If it is passed into law, the bill will increase the size of the national DNA database: all suspected and convicted criminals will have their DNA profile included on the database, which will be compared to DNA profiles collected from crime scenes and victims of crime” (Decker, 2013). For additional reading on the Bill, its importance and potential and work conducted by the DNA Project please refer to http://dnaproject.co.za/about-us/press

HOW?
Written submissions addressed to the Portfolio Committee on Police, should be directed to the Committee Secretary, Babalwa Mbengo, and posted to PO Box 15, Cape Town 8000, or e-mailed to bmbengo@parliament.gov.za or faxed to 086 665 5444. Kindly indicate your interest in making a verbal presentation to the Committee. The closing date for submissions is 12:00 on Friday, May 31, 2013. Some pointers and guidelines to follow in making your submission to the Portfolio Committee can be found at http://dnaproject.co.za/blog/have-your-say or http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/content.php?Category_ID=53
Additional information and copies of the Bill may be obtained from the Committee Secretary who may be reached via email bmbengo@parliament.gov.za or on tel. 021 403 3741, or cell. 072 327 1993.

dnaFinally, let’s stand up in favour of this important matter and make our voices heard. Consider that 10 minutes of your time allocated to this issue and the ‘click of a button’ will go a long way in contributing towards a safer South Africa.

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. — Proverbs 21:15

Sources
Decker, A. 2013. DNA Bill heads to Parliament. From: http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/dna-bill-heads-to-parliament-1.1504057  (Accessed 22 May 2013).

3 Comments

  1. Cheryllyn Dudley

    Well done!

  2. Christopher Blackwell

    ” all suspected and convicted criminals will have their DNA profile included on the database,”

    I have no problem with having all convicted Criminals having their DNA samples taken, but suspected Criminals. What might make a person fall into the suspected category. That could get interesting and misused, such someone with the wrong political beliefs, or someone who has challenged the government policy. In that case it could be used as a form of harassment, it could even be used to create a false trail of DNA put into a crime scene. Dangers to the civil rights of innocent people must be protected before this bill gets passed into law.

  3. Thanks Marcel! Let’s make a difference!