DNA Bill could help solve thousands of cases
Johannesburg - Described as a world-class piece of legislation, the DNA Bill before Parliament could see thousands of unsolved serious crimes like murder and rape being reopened and finalised through the establishment of a central DNA database.
The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, known as the DNA Bill, will also see the training of prosecutors and judicial officers on how to deal with and manage the new evidence once the country sets up its first national DNA database, a resource that is expected to improve conviction rates and reduce crime.
The bill, once passed into law, will allow for the collection of DNA samples of all convicted criminals languishing in prison, which will be compared against existing samples in unsolved cases.
The bill came under the spotlight during the portfolio committee on police’s public hearings on the bill, which started on Tuesday and end Wednesday.
The bill’s objective, among others, is to amend the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, to provide for the taking of specified bodily samples from certain categories of people – like those in prison who have already been convicted – for DNA analysis.
South Africa does not have a law enabling police to collect DNA samples, or a national forensic database, or police officers trained in the collection of DNA.
Putting forward its official submission, Strategic Investigations and Seminars’s managing director, Nick Olivier, welcomed the DNA Bill, saying it would go a long way towards solving crimes.
“We support the bill 100 percent. It’s going to have a lot of impact on the solving of crimes in South Africa, and we want to applaud the committee and other role-players, specifically the DNA project for their initiative with regard to this,” said Olivier.
In a submission, Olivier said it should be made clear that a sample taken from or under the nail should not be used as a reference sample. He added that a “buccal” swab from a suspect must be included in section 36 of the bill.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard told the hearing that in a court hearing last month, DNA had been used in a multiple rape case.
“The magistrate found absolutely as guilty as sin, and jailed the man forever, only because of the DNA found in various rape victims over a period of time in a certain area. So this is the way to go,” she said.
Major-General Adeline Shezi, of the police’s forensic services division, said the intention of the bill was mainly to regulate the use of a forensic database to fight crime.