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Citizens' rights safe with DNA Act, says Bunting

Published:Friday | May 1, 2015 | 5:00 AMCorey Robinson

National Security Minister Peter Bunting yesterday remained adamant that the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Evidence Act 2015, tabled in Parliament Wednesday, will not violate citizens' constitutional rights.

"One of the challenges that we grappled with in developing the bill and in making the provisions for the taking of samples, particularly without the consent of the suspect, was to put provisions in place that would ensure that the rights of the individual were observed, and that only reasonable force was used to extract the sample from a non-consenting suspect," said Bunting in response to questions from journalists.

The minister was addressing yesterday's post-Sectoral Debate press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew.

He said DNA testing can be done through one of two methods, and that the method that will be used under the legislation would be less intrusive of the rights of citizens.

"It's a technical area where they refer to what is called intimate and non-intimate samples," said Bunting.

"In most cases, it will be what is referred to as a non-intimate sample, which is a cotton swab that is rubbed on the inside of the cheek of a suspect, and that is what is used to obtain the sample," he said. "That is not very intrusive and I believe that in the vast majority of cases most suspects would accept that just like how they would give their fingerprint."

crucial to crime-fighting

He said similar legislation has already been established in other developed countries, and was crucial to crime-fighting measures in those nations.

Earlier this week, Derrick Smith, opposition spokesman on national security, while welcoming the bill, asked that it undergo the scrutiny of a joint select committee. This, he said, would enable submissions from the public to be addressed during a review of its provisions.

Yesterday, however, Bunting said that would not be necessary as it would further slow implementation of the bill, which has been outstanding for more than a decade.

Bunting said the bill had already gone through legal scrutiny from various state agencies.

In the meantime, Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams said recently formed legislation, such as the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, have been very useful in deterring criminals from a life of crime, and that he expects the same of the DNA Act.

"One of the most important things that we have seen is that gangsters are now trying to stay away from gangs, at least some of them, on the basis that this law will target them," he said.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com