New Zealand Justice Minister Simon Power issued the following press release:
Police can now collect DNA at the same time they take fingerprints from people they intend to charge and match it against profiles from unsolved crimes, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.
The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Act allows police to take a person’s DNA at arrest, where previously it was only after conviction. Also, the range of offences it can be taken for has been expanded.
The implementation of DNA sampling is being done in two stages.
From today, stage 1, police will be able to take a sample from anyone they intend to charge with a relevant offence. These include offences punishable by more than seven years’ imprisonment, and offences with a relationship to more serious offending, such as peeping and peering, that can be related to more serious sexual offending.
“Until now, DNA could be taken only with consent, or where there were judicially approved suspect orders or police-issued compulsion notices, and only after conviction,” Mr Power says.
From the middle of next year, stage 2, police will be able to take DNA samples for all imprisonable offences by subsequent Order-in-Council. This will follow a broader review of the Act.
It is forecast that in stage 1 some 4,000 more samples than previously will be taken each year, resulting in 2,800 links to the crime-scene database. The first year of stage 2 is expected to add 5,000 more profiles per year than stage 1 and 200 additional links to the crime scene database.
The DNA databank holds about 110,000 DNA profiles, more that 8,000 of which are unidentified profiles from crime scenes.
“This law will enable police to take full advantage of this modern-day fingerprint in order to solve cold cases, and I have no doubt it will be a critical tool in the fight against violent crime,” Mr Power says.
The Act contains provisions around storage and retention of samples, including that samples of people not convicted will be destroyed, unlike in some other countries.
“There are also new offences that penalise the misuse of DNA profile information, which will complement existing legal remedies under the Bill of Rights Act and the Privacy Act.
“Police have also developed guidelines to avoid any arbitrary or unreasonable application of this power.
“I see this tool as doing as much for those who are innocent as for those who are found guilty of a crime.”
The Act was passed in October last year and did not come into force immediately in order to give police time to finalise training and guidelines and for Environmental Science and Research to prepare for an increased workload.