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!! Update on the state of the DNA legislation in South Africa !!
The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, 2013, or DNA Bill as it has been unofficially named, has been approved by Parliament after a vote by the Police Portfolio Committee on 14 August 2013. This revision addresses many of the concerns that arose from the initial bill (see below) and aims to fill the legal vacuum that has existed in South Africa since it began DNA profiling in 1998. The initial draft bill was split into two separate bills, of which the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (B2-2009), dealing with fingerprinting and other body prints was promulgated in 2010. The document can be viewed here. For information on the final version of the new DNA Bill, please see below.
View the current Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill here. South Africa is currently in the process of introducing legislation that covers the use of DNA as evidence in criminal
and investigative procedures. In 2008, the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill was drafted in order
to regulate fingerprinting and DNA profiling. The process of DNA sample taking (to expand the National DNA Database
of South Africa) and the retention framework for storing the profiles in the database would also be regulated. Following a process of public consulations and detailed committee deliberations, the DNA Bill has been finalised, adopted by Parliament and now needs to be approved by the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces prior to its final enactment, which is anticipated to be in the last quarter of 2013.
The final version of the new DNA Bill will be posted as soon as it is available, please check back here periodically.
FDC's comments on the first draft of the initial Amendment Bill. This
document is a written public submission from Forensic DNA Consultants to the Ad hoc committee tasked with
preparing the legislation that reviews the Bill that had been proposed in 2009 and offers constructive criticisms, support and suggestions. FDC will be making a submission to the Portfolio Committee for the most recent version of the Bill and this will be posted as soon as it is available. Please check back here early in June to view FDC's submission.
The 2009 NRC Report:Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
Following concerns surrounding the application of various scientific and non-scientific forensic disciplines to law enforcement and criminal investigation, a need has arisen to consolidate that knowledge and to ensure that best practices are followed in each of the disciplines to ensure that they remain reliable for court purposes. Following a request from Congress, this report was published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in order for the current challenges facing forensic science to be investigated and addressed and for suggestions to be made as to how improvements can be made across all forensic disciplinces. During their research, the Council mentions the following message to be the most surprising and to be a key consideration in addressing the problems experienced:
" The forensic science system, encompassing both research and practice, has serious problems that can only be addressed by a national commitment to overhaul the current structure that supports the forensic science community in this country. This can only be done with effective leadership at the highest levels of both federal and state governments, pursuant to national standards, and with a signifcant infusion of federal funds. "
To download the 2009 NRC report, please click here.
Fingerprinting Under the Magnifying Glass.
As with a DNA profile, a fingerprint is not necessarily unique to only one individual. For many decades, however, this principle has been undisputed in courtrooms worldwide, until recently. With DNA profiling having undergone much scrutiny and testing via the scientific method over the years since its inception, fingerprinting has not undergone such extensive scientific validation. As a result, the evidential value and strength of fingerprinting evidence has come under the spotlight, which may potentially lead to the current use of and methodology around fingerprinting to become null and void in the near future.
In order to evaluate the limitations of fingerprinting, specialist working groups are required in order to assess all available facts surrounding the use of fingerprints and to make recommendations on how fingerprinting evidence should be processed during an investigation, as well as how the results should be interpreted in court.
The Fingerprint Inquiry was set up in Scotland in 2008 and was tasked with holding a public inquiry into the identification and verification of fingerprints associated with the case of HM Advocate v McKie in 1999. In December 2011, the independent public inquiry presented their comprehensive report to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, wherein the case is examined in depth, allowing for the Inquiry to make specific conclusions and, importantly, recommendations on the use of fingerprint evidence in future.
Please click here to view the report.