KINGSTON: Jamaica’s Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting, is confident that the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Evidence Act, 2015 which makes provisions for police to take samples from criminal suspects, with or without their permission, will withstand any constitutional challenges.
He said that prior to tabling the Bill in the House of Assembly on April 29, he had the input of the Attorney General’s Department, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Legal Reform Department on the matter.
“One of the challenges that we grappled with in developing the Bill and making the provisions for the taking of samples, particularly without the consent of the suspect, is to ensure that the rights of the individual are observed and that only reasonable force is used to extract the sample from a non-consenting suspect,” said Bunting.
The minister said the manner in which the samples would be taken would not be very intrusive and would be similar to that of taking fingerprints.
“In most cases, it will be what is referred to as a non-intimate sample, which is essentially a cotton swab that is rubbed on the inside of a suspect’s cheek and that is used to obtain the sample,” he said.
Bunting said the legislation made provisions for a Justice of the Peace to be present if the police had to forcibly take a DNA sample. He stated that this type of legislation was not unique to Jamaica and most developed countries had similar DNA legislation.
However, the minister acknowledged that the DNA Bill was not a panacea for Jamaica’s crime problems.
“(In many cases, it will) certainly prove conclusive, particularly for cases like rape and sexual abuse of minors, where there is provision to use it now,” said Bunting. “There are other cases where the perpetrator may leave some DNA evidence on the scene (and) it will be helpful.”
The legislation will provide for the keeping, maintaining, and operating of a consolidated forensic DNA databank, the National DNA Register, for the purposes of forensic investigation and human identification.
The Bill also provides for the regulation of the taking of bodily samples from people and crime scenes, to treat with the retention or destruction of samples and DNA profiles.