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Police ready to hit the ground running with DNA law

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2015 | 11:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Glenmore Hinds, deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime, says the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has

a cadre of more than 600 investigators who have been trained as forensic and scene of crime personnel and are ready to implement the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Evidence Act 2015.

The legislation was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday with four amendments.

The senior police officer said the new law would serve as another critical tool enabling the JCF to have a better handle on criminal investigation.

"It will help us to better investigate some cases. It will allow those who are guilty to be so punished, and on the other hand, persons who are accused and are innocent, it can also exonerate them. It will enhance the criminal-justice system and certainly law enforcement," Hinds told The Gleaner.

He said the police would be involved in the taking of DNA samples, but noted that the Institute of Forensic Sciences, based in the Ministry of National Security, would be the custodians of these samples.

The DNA law designates the director of the forensic institute as the custodian and specifies that person's functions.

"The police will only be a customer of that institute, not the owner or controller of it. This institute will have control of the DNA databank," Hinds said.

INDECOM MUM

The Gleaner sought comment from head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), Terrence Williams, on the passage of the far-reaching law and whether it would assist the police oversight body in its probes.

However, despite sending questions to INDECOM for a response and repeated calls to the office as well as the commissioner's mobile phone, the agency remained mum on the query.

With the passage of this law, the Government will now introduce a legislative framework for the regulation of the taking of DNA material for forensic investigation and human identification.

The DNA law provides for the keeping, maintenance and operation of a national DNA register and specifies the offences in relation to which DNA material may be taken.

It also provides for the taking of intimate samples and non-intimate samples, and outlines the basis on which DNA material may be destroyed.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com