Passing DNA bill a step forward - NGO

2013-08-13 23:05

Cape Town - The adoption of the DNA bill by MPs on Tuesday was a big step towards removing dangerous criminals from South Africa's streets, the DNA Project said.

MPs turned to the back of the committee room as one woman started clapping excitedly when police portfolio committee chair Annelize van Wyk announced the bill was approved.

That woman was DNA Project director Vanessa Lynch, who has been fighting for the promulgation of a law governing the handling of DNA samples from crime scenes for the past nine years.

Her journey to push for such a law to be passed began in 2004.

"My father was murdered and it was the loss of DNA evidence that led to the perpetrators never being brought to book or even identified, and it's through the loss of DNA evidence that I embarked on this journey," Lynch said.

She hoped the enactment of the bill would follow soon.

"It's a massive step and I really do think it's a wonderful opportunity for South Africa to really fight crime in a way which is smart, and which has shown throughout the world to be effective," Lynch said.

If the bill was enacted, criminals or suspected criminals would be compelled to provide police with a DNA sample.

The samples would then be destroyed, but the DNA profiles would be stored on a database.

Samples are taken - by specially-trained police officers - using a cotton-tipped swab rubbed against the inner cheek. Epithelial (cheek) cells adhere to the swab.

DNA samples

Criminals in the country's jails would be compelled to provide such DNA samples.

DNA would also be taken from arrested and charged people, and from volunteers, to eliminate them as suspects in a crime.

People could also volunteer to provide DNA samples for help in identifying bodies or missing people.

"It will have an effect on our serial offenders. We'll be able to identify them at an earlier stage of their criminal careers," Lynch said.

It was not a "silver bullet", but needed to be coupled with good investigative work and a capable criminal justice system, she said.

"We can't let the minority spoil it for the majority and the criminals are the minority, the corrupt police are the minority," she said.

"There's some good people out there, there's motivation, there's a good framework, and with the support of the public let's try to do something positive."

The bill would also help those who could not speak for themselves, especially children.

"When you have a 4-month-old child being raped and you collect DNA evidence, you can identify the perpetrator through DNA on a database because these guys are doing it repeatedly. That's why I think it's so valuable in a country where we need this kind of objective evidence."

  • Alex - 2013-08-14 01:26

    I want to have my unique DNA profile patented so that in the event that anyone takes it without my express, prior permission I can sue them for copyright theft. My DNA is my property as yours belongs to you.

  • Khahlameza Sbisi - 2013-08-14 06:21

    I so wish that one day South Africa will have DNA profiles of everyone living in the country, meaning all the babies born should have their DNA profiled just like its done with fingerprints.

      Gideon Joubert - 2013-08-14 11:00

      Are all of you insane?

  • Freda Peens - 2013-08-14 08:51

    This is good news

  • Gideon Joubert - 2013-08-14 10:02

    This is a gross invasion of personal privacy. Do not presume too much value to DNA evidence in an investigation. It is pure circumstantial evidence, nothing more. If the prosecution and police work is not done properly it will be worthless. My DNA is nobody's business.

      Scott Young - 2013-08-14 10:29

      lol, where is DNA, cicumstantial?? I agree it is partly an invasion of privacy. you will get cops just arresting you for no reason if they want your DNA. If it helps justice and humans get rid of vermin, im all for it.

      Gideon Joubert - 2013-08-14 10:44

      @ Scott: "Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact: examples of circumstantial evidence are fingerprint, blood analysis or DNA analysis of the evidence found at the scene of a crime." What where you saying again? Research before commenting.

      Tinus de Jager - 2013-08-14 12:49

      I agree, Gideon. Fortunately it will go the way of all police databases. Down the tube. They can't even do fingerprints on time. And Cape Town knows little about fingerprints taken in Johannesburg. The laboratory testing of blood-alcohol levels is something like two years behind. Yet another corrupt joke. I wonder who is getting the hand-out this time.

      Peta Steyn - 2013-08-14 13:32

      Gideon, I worked in SAPS as a DNA Reporting officer and I can assure you, the DNA profile taken is tantamount to one letter in a huge book of information about you. It is a tiny fragment of information that doesn't tell us what eye or hair colour you have, but can be helped to identify badly decomposed remains and take bad people off the streets. The only people who should worry are the criminals! In a few years it will change the crime profile from serious crime to petty crime as it has done in every country that instigates it. People will think twice before taking a life! THAT is all the police and the government are interested in. How easily do you give your fingerprint? This process takes no more information than that does and is used to link people to a crime! Yes, it is potentially circumstantial, but if you haven't done anything wrong, that will come out if you are ever questioned. However, if someone rapes, and chops up a body and dumps it, don't you think its worth being able to link the perpetrator to that crime?

      Peta Steyn - 2013-08-14 13:36

      oh, and blood alcohol is department of health; fingerprints is Local criminal record centre ( a sister division to Forensics); Forensic Chemistry ( drug analysis from busts etc; not blood!) and Biology (DNA and Murder) are managed and run separately. They already have a database internally of all cases ever analysed, and it is very well managed NATIONALLY. It just couldn't be used to issue warrants before when people were linked to other cases. When they implement this bill, they can do exactly that!

      Bianca de Klerk - 2013-08-14 15:33

      The parts of the DNA used is by no means an invasion of anyone's privacy. It is referred to as "junk DNA", as it does not code for anything. Yet it is unique to each individual (excluding identical twins of course). The only specific detail that is provided by the parts used by SAPS is whether the donor is male or female - nothing else. In any case, if you are not a criminal, there is no need for you to be concerned about this.

      Bianca de Klerk - 2013-08-14 15:38

      As you said yourself. Research before commenting.

      Bianca de Klerk - 2013-08-14 15:47

      @Peta Steyn. It is heart warming that an ex-RO is still willing to stand up for us. I wish I had read your post before commenting myself, would have saved me the time to convert what I wanted to say into layman's terms. You took the words right from my mouth. I, for one, am truly sad we have lost an obvious expert as yourself. It would be nice if people realised that SAPS have nothing to do with blood-alcohol analysis too.

  • Theunis van Wijk - 2013-08-14 10:22

    This is a giant leap for South African mankind. Congratulations!!!!!!

  • Keith Kido Sons - 2013-08-14 10:30

    So are they going to be taking DNA samples each and every time we get arrested ? And will the state Pay for all those Needles they'll need and how long before they start reusing needles due to "Lack of Funds".

      Sheila Pinheiro - 2013-08-14 11:02

      @ Keith if you read the article - there are no needles - it is a cotton swab (like an ear bud). They can't be re-used.

      Linda van der Horst - 2013-08-14 11:04

      @Keith - What needles?? Read the report properly please. "Samples are taken - by specially-trained police officers - using a cotton-tipped swab rubbed against the inner cheek. Epithelial (cheek) cells adhere to the swab."

      Keith Kido Sons - 2013-08-14 13:13

      Sorry, My Mistake. Thanks to the doctors who blog. You made me smarter than I was before I posted that comment. LOL. So what happens when the cotton runs out ? . . . Just kidding

      Bianca de Klerk - 2013-08-14 15:37

      No needles are used. A Buccal swab is taken - the inside of one's mouth is swabbed using a soft spoungy swab.

  • LizDon Ferguson - 2013-08-15 01:03

    I must have been watching way too much CSI.... And they all lived happily ever after

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