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Bill ‘could help catch criminals’

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The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill – also known as the DNA Bill – is on its way to Parliament after being delayed for five years.

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Stem cell researcher Tadashi Sato, not seen, adds growth medium to a dish where stem cells are grown, in Omaha, Neb., Monday, March 9, 2009 at The University of Nebraska Medical Center. The University of Nebraska Medical Center's associate vice chancellor of academic affairs Dave Crouse said the lifting of a ban on using federal dollars for embryonic stem cell research marks a "big day for science."(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Proponents of the bill say it has the potential to help police take violent criminals off South Africa’s streets.

According to a cabinet statement, the bill “paves the way to regulate and promote the use of DNA in combating crime, taking into account constitutional requirements”.

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.

The DNA Project says this will greatly assist police in gathering evidence, and prosecutors in gaining convictions.

The DNA Project, headed by attorney Vanessa Lynch, has been lobbying for this legislation since 2008.

Lynch has a personal connection to the issue: her father was murdered in his home in 2004, but no one was convicted after all traces of DNA and other forensic evidence were lost.

Lynch said that by facilitating police efforts, the DNA Bill would put more offenders behind bars. The larger the database, the more chance police have of linking an unknown DNA profile to a known profile taken from a suspect or convicted offender.

The DNA Project is waiting to hear when the police portfolio committee will introduce the DNA Bill into its programme. Public submissions will then be called for and the committee will review the bill.

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