Wrongful Convictions Observer

There have been several important legal developments in Australia and New Zealand over the past two weeks relating to the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations.

The first takes place in Australia's second largest state - Victoria.  To paraphrase the very helpful overview given by civil rights advocacy group Liberty Victoria here, the State has recently proposed a new statute - the Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill 2019 - which creates new powers in the Crimes Act 1958 (“the Crimes Act”) for police to take a DNA sample from certain suspects and offenders without a court order, including in some cases children.  More on this has been written in the Saturday Paper - which is excerpted below (the text comes from this link here: https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2019/03/23/wider-laws-allow-victoria-police-take-dna-samples/15532596007870)

The Victorian Government's research paper on this Bill is located here: https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/publications/research-papers/summary/36-research-papers/13888-justice-legislation-amendment-police-and-other-matters-bill-2019


The second development is that the New Zealand Law Commission (a government funded law reform body) will soon close its public submissions period for its study The Use of DNA in Criminal Investigations: https://www.lawcom.govt.nz/our-projects/use-dna-criminal-investigations?id=1563

Relevantly the study is focusing on the following issues:

  • The purpose of the current governing statute is unclear and the structure is confusing;

  • The science is continually developing and these developments raise human rights, Treaty of Waitangi, ethical and tikanga issues, as well as issues around informational privacy that need to be addressed;

  • The governing statute is not sufficiently comprehensive; and

  • There is no independent oversight.

A discussion between the Commissioner leading the research and reform work, and a reporter at New Zealand's national public broadcaster can be found here: https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018683468/dna-in-criminal-investigations