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Gov't won't procrastinate with DNA bill

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 6:00 AM

Arguing that approximately 200 underaged girls become pregnant each year for adult men, National Security Minister Peter Bunting said on Tuesday that the Government will be seeking to get the DNA bill in the hands of law-enforcement officers within the shortest possible time.

The minister, while opening the debate on the bill in the House of Representatives, said that interested parties can make a contribution but notes that sending the bill to a joint-select committee could significantly slow down the pace at which it is put to legislators for a vote.

"The major difficulty in bringing the perpetrators of these rapes to justice is the fact that the child victims are often reluctant to testify in court against the alleged perpetrator," Bunting said.

He said that this makes it difficult to secure convictions and many offenders go free because of the absence of critical tools such as the DNA law.

"This is not fair to our children and we have a duty to ensure that our children are protected, and that the perpetrators of these crimes are not allowed to go unpunished. We can't all be expressing concern and regret about these monsters preying on our children but when we have a chance to do something about it we procrastinate," Bunting said.

The bill makes provisions for the taking of DNA samples from suspects in specified crimes such as rapes and carnal abuse. Samples may also be taken for elimination purposes.

provide conclusive evidence

The bill also has provisions for the management of the samples and specifies how that sample may be obtained and kept.

"When this bill is passed, investigators will have a powerful tool to provide conclusive evidence of the rape of these children. These perpetrators must be brought to justice, and I feel the passage of this bill by itself will have a chilling effect on their criminal activity," the minister said.

Opposition spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, had expressed the desire for the bill to be subjected to a joint-select committee to allow both senators and MPs to hear from members of the public about the proposals. But yesterday, Bunting said that from his experience in the Parliament, the bill would be tied up for too long and would deny the police an opportunity to solve crimes.

"The use of DNA evidence has long been used in our court system in Jamaican. Therefore, police investigators, prosecutors, defence attorneys and the judiciary are already familiar with DNA testing. It is used routinely in a great many jurisdictions right across the world," Bunting said.

He also said that the submission of a bill to a joint-select committee "invariably causes substantial delay", pointing for example to the joint-select committee reviewing the INDECOM Act which has been meeting for over two years, and the committee looking at the Integrity Commission Bill which has been meeting for over a year.

"Jamaica stands to benefit from the use of DNA technology to aid in police investigations and prosecutions. This is just one element of the multifaceted approach this administration is taking to tackle crime. We need the legislative foundation provided by this critical bill to address the scourge of crime that has been affecting Jamaica," Bunting told members of the House of Representatives.