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HRC And Privacy Concerned About Increased Police DNA Sampling

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 14 NZPA - The Human Rights Commission and Privacy Commissioner have concerns a bill that gives the police wider powers to take DNA samples goes too far.

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill would allow police to take DNA from anyone charged with an imprisonable offence.

The current law has a much higher threshold -- for serious offences punishable by more than seven years prison.

In its submission to the justice and electoral select committee on the bill today, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) said it understood DNA collection was necessary but "the changes proposed go too far".

It said the bill infringed the right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. It also increased the possibility of discrimination on the grounds of race and family status and impacts disproportionately on youth.

The HRC asked the committee to consider the effects of testing of families and suggested it should not apply to anyone under the age of 16.

It did not think the range of offences should be increased to all those carrying the risk of imprisonment and "certainly not" by Order in Council (by Cabinet).

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff's submission said the current law created a balance between crime fighting goals and the need to protect individual privacy.

"I accept the high value of the existing criminal DNA databank in detective and preventing crime," she said.

"However I am concerned that the changes proposed ... jeopardises that value by undermining public trust in the police and government."

The commissioner said if police were able to take DNA from a wider range of people there should be oversight through an independent committee or additional audit powers.

Ms Shroff wanted the bill's recommendation for samples for all imprisonable offences dropped, as well as the bid to retain samples for longer than two years after a suspect is cleared.

At present, DNA can be collected only with consent, by judicial approval, or by compulsion where people are suspected or convicted of an offence punishable by more than seven years imprisonment.

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