Page 2741 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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I do, however, have some concerns about the new requirement which means that suspects will now need to apply to have their forensic material destroyed. Previously, it was automatically destroyed after one year. As I have just mentioned, I can see the benefit in the police being able to retain forensic material for the length of proceedings. I do worry, though, that the suspect will now need to apply for it to be destroyed, either after a year or after proceedings, rather than the police having to apply to retain it. I appreciate that the police will have to provide evidence for why the material should be retained, and I appreciate that this change will make things more convenient for the police in the current situation. I just hope, and seek the Attorney-General’s assurance, that the process for someone applying to have their forensic material destroyed is well advertised and not onerous and difficult to negotiate.

Most situations which involve the information available from our DNA require a great deal of trust in our police and in our court systems. We have to trust that if a suspect does not request the destruction of the samples the material will not be misused. We have to trust that our court systems will balance individual privacy and public safety and catch any wrongdoing. Occasionally, as we know, there are breaches of that trust. I would say that the Haneef case is one example of a breach of trust. While I have no doubt about the integrity of the ACT government and ACT Policing, it does show that mistakes and political interference can occur, not least in the parent organisation, and that trust in the system is not always enough and public vigilance has to be maintained.

We also have to trust that the oversight agencies that audit and review the DNA database will ensure that the information stored in the system will only be used as outlined in this bill. The Privacy Commissioner raised the necessity of adequate third-party oversight in the concluding remarks of the office’s submission to the inquiry into the Crimes Amendment (Forensic Procedures) Bill 2000. In the absence of any independent police integrity commission or oversight of the AFP, I can only hope that the agencies mentioned in clause 79 will protect the privacy of individuals and draw any breaches to the attention of the government of the day.

Generally, however, I support this bill. The three aims—improving processes for ACT Policing and the courts, and thereby improving public safety; harmonisation with regard to information sharing in the national database; and improving the human rights standards of the legislation—are all important. So while I have some slight reservations about the use and storage of DNA information, they are not large enough for me to oppose these proposed amendments.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (5.05): I thank members for their support of this important piece of legislation. The responses I have received regarding this bill have been positive and they have given me great confidence that the bill will place the ACT in an advantageous position to fight crime using available and advanced technologies in an effective and responsible manner. The bill reflects a serious consideration of human rights issues and ensures the community that forensic procedures are performed in the least restrictive and least invasive ways, especially when it comes to victims of crime, and that materials are kept stored and used in the most secure and appropriate ways.

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