Military personnel committing serious offences could soon have to give DNA to police

Moves are being made to allow police to take DNA samples from military personnel convicted under a court martial system.

Moves are being made to allow police to take DNA samples from military personnel convicted under a court martial system.

While serious crimes occur both within the Defence Force and the civilian world, the way they are recorded and prosecuted can vary greatly. Kirsty Lawrence reports. 

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has ordered a review of a loophole that allows soldiers to escape giving DNA samples to police after being convicted of serious offending. 

Nearly two dozen Defence Force personnel have faced charges of indecent assault and rape in the past two decades, with none of those found guilty having their crimes recorded on their civilian criminal records.

Corey Michael Kennett, who was convicted of indecently assaulting several female recruits in the military back in 2005.

Corey Michael Kennett, who was convicted of indecently assaulting several female recruits in the military back in 2005.

This means the crime doesn't count towards the three strike policy and it is not accessible for employers to access when requesting police checks. 

It also means the perpetrator does not have to give DNA to police. 

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Among those who avoided a criminal record was Corey Kennett, who pleaded guilty to 12 charges in relation to a sexually motivated attack on a female soldier.

Kennett was sentenced to six months' detention at the Military Prison in Burnham before being dismissed from the military. 

His court martial was never publicly reported, although the Defence Force informed local media only about the impending court martial.

Mandatory DNA recording was introduced in New Zealand 20 years ago, for people found guilty of qualifying crimes.

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A qualifying crime is an offence that could result in a prison sentence of more than seven years, so the person is required to give a DNA sample under the Criminal Investigations Blood Samples Act.

This DNA databank has been used to solve hundreds of cases since.

But unknown to many members of the public, politicians and employers, members of the Defence Force found guilty of the same crimes through a court martial are not under the same obligation.

However, the defence force are trying to rectify that.

In 2016 a request was sent to the Minister of Defence, Gerry Brownlee, to assess the situation.  

Brownlee then sent letters to the Ministers of Justice and police to request their participation in a partnership regime. 

A Defence Force spokesman confirmed the request was made.

He said it was done when Defence discovered the military justice system was not compatible with the civilian system for taking DNA samples. 

They proposed the partnership so they could align both system by making it compulsory for the bodily sample to be collected post-conviction for the same offending. 

In order for this to happen a minor legislative amendment had to be made, he said. 

After sending out letters proposing the change, the Defence Force were contacted by the Law Commission who said they were already conducting a review of the use of DNA in criminal investigations

It was decided in March the DNA proposal would be part of the Law Commission review. 

In  a release on the Law Commission website, former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the commission would be researching and meeting with experts and scientists over the next few months before talking to the public.

Police national forensic services manager Inspector John Walker said police supported the move.

"It is important to police that the opportunities to resolve serious crimes early are enhanced by maintaining an up-to-date DNA Databank of the DNA of persons convicted of serious offending, whether in courts martial or criminal courts." 

 - Sunday Star Times


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