Law change expected to extend police use of DNA

Last updated 00:39 10/02/2009

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Police will be given controversial new powers to take DNA from suspected criminals under a raft of law and order changes before Parliament this week.

Under the changes, police will no longer need approval from a High Court judge before someone is forced to provide DNA before they are convicted, with samples immediately matched against samples from unsolved crimes.

The Criminal Investigation (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill will eventually extend police powers to collect DNA to everyone arrested of an imprisonable offence with samples taken at the point charges are about to be laid.

Samples will be destroyed in the case of acquittals or charges being dropped, but can be matched in the meantime.

The bill comes after it was revealed police had stepped up the collection and use of DNA profiling, with the new hardline approach including samples taken from a man who stole vegetables from his neighbour's garden.

It has raised further concerns from civil liberties lawyers who fear the system will be open to abuse.

Although National leader John Key promised to give police wider powers to take DNA from people when they were arrested, the extent to which it could be used without judicial oversight was not made clear.

Presently, police can apply for a DNA sample from a person suspected of a specific serious offence, but it must be with the consent of a judge and in the belief that they have committed that offence. Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Michael Bott said allowing wider powers to take and use samples from people legally considered innocent and without approval from the courts was a major concern.

"Just because you've been charged with an imprisonable offence does not mean you'll be convicted."

NZPA

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