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DNA Bill heads to Parliament

Cape Town -

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.

Vanessa Lynch, the founder of the DNA Project. Picture: Christiaan Louw. Credit: INLSA

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.

“To not utilise all of these things in a country which is screaming - it just seems ludicrous, doesn’t it?”

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.

According to a press release from the DNA Project, more than one million South African children have been raped since the bill was first presented to the cabinet.

“We have a methodology that is tangible and works, but people are dragging their heels,” said Lynch.

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.

Lynch is hopeful the bill will be passed before the next election, or DNA project will have to begin the process all over again with the new cabinet, further delaying the process.

“Then it’s time to literally start toyi-toying to say this is just getting out of hand,” she said. - Cape Argus

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