New Zealand Law Society - Law Commission looks at use of DNA in criminal investigations

Law Commission looks at use of DNA in criminal investigations

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The Law Commission has released an issues paper on The Use of DNA in Criminal Investigations.

New Zealand's Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 regulates DNA collection from known individuals, either by consent or by compulsion, and establishes the national DNA databank to hold the resulting profiles.

While New Zealand was the second country to create a legislative regime for the use of DNA in criminal investigations, the Law Commission says it is no longer possible to read the legislation and obtain an accurate picture of the role and function of DNA profiling in criminal proceedings.

The Act focuses on the use of a DNA profile to identify an individual offender – either by offering an investigative lead in relation to unsolved criminal offending or by providing evidence in the prosecution of an offence.

Commissioner Donna Buckingham says the Commission thinks that developments in the 22 years since the Act came into force raise questions on which informed public debate is needed.

“Such questions must focus not only on how to support the effectiveness of DNA profiling in the criminal context, but also address the privacy, tikanga, human rights and Treaty of Waitangi concerns that arise," she says.

The Law Commission is inviting public submissions on the issues paper until 31 March 2019. It says it will publish its final report in late 2019.