DNA database delayed?


The creation of a R8 billion DNA database that may boost the fight against crime will be delayed by skills shortages and capacity constraints in the national police service, Parliament has heard.

The National Assembly’s police portfolio committee is currently considering the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill that will create a national DNA database.

ITWeb andthe Parliamentary Monitoring Group reports the committee is concerned about the readiness of the police to impliment the database and are worried about the possibility of constitutional challenges to the wide-ranging powers given to police.

As a result, the Bill may go forward without the database and as a “first phase” give the police to existing biometric datebases such as the Department of Home Affairs’ HANIS (Home Affairs National Identification System) and the Department of Transport’s eNATIS (electronic National Traffic Information System). The first contain the fingerprints and photos of all identity document and passport holders and the latter the same for all who possess lawful drivers’ licences.

This part of the Bill could be finalised as soon as this month.

The “second phase” of the Bill will deal with the creation of the DNA database.

But this is on hold “while the issues are further investigated and addressed” and will only be finalised next year.

The Bill currently allows for the creation of a database, using biometric technology, which would allow for DNA profiling, DNA typing, DNA fingerprinting or genetic fingerprinting. The profiling system would be linked to HANIS and eNATIS.

Deon Rudman, deputy director-general of legislative development at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ), says it has been informed of the proposed changes. The DOJ is considering proposals that have been presented, he says.

Constitutional challenges

Concerns were raised previously on the readiness and capacity of the police to implement and maintain the database.

The committee added the police needed to give more consideration to all aspects of biometric evidence, especially DNA and fingerprinting. It also called on the police to carefully consider the cost and capacity needed to maintain the Bill if it was enacted.

The Bill also provides for the expansion of the powers of police officers to take and retain fingerprint and DNA samples.

But the committee believes these powers are too extensive and that intimate samples should be taken by registered medical practitioners or registered nurses and not police officers.

The DOJ noted that changes to the process and careful consideration for identity management would ensure the process would “pass constitutional muster”. Increased security and governance would ensure issues around fundamental rights of individuals would be upheld, said Rudman.

The police added that no plans had been drawn up yet to integrate databases and allow for the electronic sharing of database information.

No implementation plans have been finalised and no budget allocations have been made. Decisions would be made jointly with the other departments, added the police according to ITWeb.

The police further added the lifetime cost of the database also still had to be determined.

The police would need between R8 billion and R9 billion for the implementation alone. A total of R3 billion would also have to be budgeted to build the police’s crime scene and reference sample capacity.

A further R2.5 billion would be needed for the expansion of the police fingerprint database and to link it with other databases.

Another R2 billion has since been budgeted for the reference samples from private laboratories over a five-year period.

The police said that interdepartmental consultations on the issue were being held with the departments of home affairs and transport, and the process was moving smoothly.

The success of this proposal, however, depended on the cooperation of the departments concerned.