Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Samuels erecting straw men on DNA law

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Bert Samuels' article 'Why I oppose DNA law' (Sunday Gleaner, May 10, 2015) is far from convincing.

Self-incrimination and dishonesty within the justice system were the two main points used by Mr Samuels to rebut the DNA law. Mr Samuels claimed that a law that facilitates the taking of DNA evidence from the accused collides with the constitutional protection from self-incrimination.

Self-incrimination is a process by which an innocent man does something to assert his guilt. The usage of DNA from an innocent man can also be used to establish his innocence. Only a second or third party can unscrupulously use the DNA evidence to the detriment of the accused. Fundamentally, that process is dishonesty, not self-incrimination.

The Constitution prohibits an accused from forcibly making a confession or a statement establishing guilt. How will taking DNA sample from an accused contravene that provision when the DNA sample is neither a confession nor statement?

Mr Samuels also proposed, with the help of others, that it is the burden of a prosecutor to prove the guilt of an accused. That is the highest of platitudes - from an noble lawyer. The duty of a prosecutor is to present the facts of an alleged crime to a court of law. The proof of guilt lies within evidence - the prosecution is not the arbiter of guilt.




Police currently perform breathalyser tests on drivers, albeit mostly after serious accidents. Is that practice unconstitutional? Who told you that force will be used to extract DNA from an accused? Surely, policies and procedures, on a humanitarian level, will be promulgated to complement the DNA law.

Mr Samuels also highlighted the issue of "evidence planting". Honesty and integrity have always been a concern in the justice system. Even without the DNA law, evidence planting has been a concern. The DNA law will not be the origin of evidence planting.

The absence of the DNA law will not, by itself, eradicate evidence planting; therefore, using "evidence planting" to aid in your rebuttal is insignificant.