Page 2735 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008
The bill also provides for oversight and accountability powers and requirements in relation to inspections and audits of the manner in which our data is used, obtained and destroyed. It distinguishes between identifying DNA data held in the database and actual samples. That is quite sensible; in doing so, it provides that identifying DNA data has to be removed from the database within 12 months, or indeed less if a person is acquitted of a charge. However, it retains the ability for police—and this is crucially important—to apply for database information to be retained if there is a proper forensic purpose, and indeed for the samples themselves to be retained, which is very important.
The bill also provides a range of comprehensive processes in relation to the collection of forensic samples from and the rights of suspects and volunteers such as victims of crime, including minors. Again, they are important and sensible provisions. The victim, of course, can have whoever they wish with them when a sample is being taken. I think that is sensible in terms of looking after the rights of victims, showing sensitivity to victims and helping them through what is a very difficult period. The victims invariably in these situations will have been highly traumatised by the crime and anything we can do to make their lot easier in terms of taking them through processes is to be applauded.
Earlier this morning, the attorney tabled a bill relating to victims of sexual assaults and other violent crimes. I think it is a very important bill. I would have liked to have seen it two years ago, but it is better late than never. Much of the thrust of that bill is to give due sensitivity to victims, and that is crucially important. So the provisions in this bill are important in that regard.
The bill is somewhat prescriptive in terms of the manner in which forensic procedures can be undertaken. I would have thought that, if you take hair strand samples, as a matter of course you would do so using the least painful technique, without having to stipulate that. But there you go; that is what you get if you have overly prescriptive legislation like the Human Rights Act, which does lay out the administrative processes involved for the respectful treatment of suspects, volunteers and serious offenders, and even the cultural and religious significance of certain items of clothing. The effectiveness of some of these precautions, particularly as they relate to suspects and serious and multiple offenders, remain to be seen, although I am advised that the bill does no more than formalise police procedures that are in operation. The police do have procedures like that, so we will see what occurs there. I doubt that there is any real problem there, but we can monitor it.
The procedures that are now to be enshrined in legislation relate to the obligations on police and others who collect forensic samples; court orders, with or without the presence in the court of suspects, including new arrangements allowing for appearances by audio and audiovisual links; the rights of those suspects, including special provisions in relation to serious offenders and volunteers, in relation to the collection, retention and destruction of personal forensic samples such as DNA, including the use of reasonable force; the recording by photograph and/or video of the collection of personal forensic samples; and the analysis of samples and the availability of those recordings and analysis to the person from whom the samples