New Zealand Law Society - Use of DNA in criminal investigations changes needed

Use of DNA in criminal investigations changes needed

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The New Zealand Law Society agrees with the Law Commission that a new Act is needed to replace the Criminal Invesigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995.

In a submission on the Commission’s Issues Paper, The Use of DNA in Criminal Investigations, the Law Society says it agrees with the Commission that the use of DNA in criminal investigations has outstripped the statutory scheme, with the result that the current system does not provide consistent or thorough safeguards.

“Practices in this area are therefore currently driven by law enforcement objectives and opportunities rather than public, broadly informed and balanced debate.”

It says the Law Commission has an appropriate goal of legislation with a clear purpose that has been robustly tested, is certain and flexible for the future and appropriately comprehensive and effective for that purpose within the context of the wider criminal justice system.

However, this has potentially conflicting elements, some of which tend towards a prescriptive and exclusive regulatory regime while others tend against prescription. It is important to find a solution that reflects New Zealand needs, while achieving the right balance between the different objectives.

The Law Society says as the Issues Paper points out, there is a need for independently set and audited controls and for ongoing monitoring of procedural compliance, fairness, proportionality and efficacy. It supports the introduction of a small independent multi-disciplinary panel as the most appropriate form of oversight body.