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DNA legislation tabled, Gov't links ballistics data to INTERPOL

Published:Wednesday | April 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM
National Security Minister Peter Bunting makes his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday.

With the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Evidence Act, 2015 finally tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, after years of gestation, spanning three administrations, National Security Minister Peter Bunting has urged his fellow lawmakers to throw their full support behind the groundbreaking legislation when debate begins in about two weeks.

Another far-reaching crime-fighting measure introduced by the Government to tackle crimes across various jurisdictions is the linking of the Jamaica Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) with the INTERPOL Ballistic Information Network (IBIN).

The connectivity of these ballistics data systems will allow countries worldwide that have agreed to share ballistics data to combat gun crimes and the trafficking of guns across international borders.

The Police High Command has consistently pressed the Government to introduce DNA law to assist the force in the fight against crime.

In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Bunting said the legislation would provide for the keeping, maintaining, and operating of a consolidated forensic DNA databank, to be known as the National DNA register for the purpose of forensic investigation and human identification.

He said the proposed law would also provide a regulatory framework for the taking of bodily samples and DNA profiles.

resolving difficult cases

In addition, the new law will designate the director of the Forensic Institute as the custodian and will specify the functions of the custodian.

The memorandum of objects and reasons of the bill indicates that the use of DNA evidence has shown to be conclusive in resolving a number of difficult cases, resulting in the successful conviction of serious offenders and in some instances, the exoneration of persons wrongly accused or convicted of crimes. It also helps law-enforcement authorities to identify criminals many years after the commission of an offence.

DNA evidence is valued particularly for the high degree of accuracy in criminal identification because of the unique nature of each person's genetic profile and the longevity of biological material.

"The use of DNA evidence simplifies the administration of justice, saves time and money, and facilitates early detection, arrest and conviction for offences.

Jamaica's forensic lab has had the capability to carry out DNA testing over the years. However, Bunting said this was of limited value, as the law does not provide for the compulsory taking of DNA samples from suspects.

Meanwhile, Bunting announced yesterday that effective April 1, the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine was established as a department of the Ministry of National Security and is no longer a unit of the police department.

The national security minister said this decision was made in an effort to establish the institute's professional independence and to remove any perception of a conflict of interest.