SA urged to set up DNA database of crime suspects
HAVING a DNA database of arrested persons would help law enforcement authorities to identify suspects sought for other crimes in addition to simply providing evidence to the courts, says a DNA policy expert.
SA does not have legislation authorising law enforcement authorities to take and store DNA samples of people who are arrested. Such legislation was supposed to be part of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill of 2009 and to encompass the collection and storage of fingerprints.
However, the portfolio committee on police decided to pass two separate laws, one for fingerprint collection and another for the DNA database. The fingerprint collection legislation was passed last year, but the legislation on the DNA collection is still being studied.
At the third African DNA Conference held in Pretoria last week, Chris Asplen, director of DNA 4 Africa, said a database would help to identify more criminals and reduce high crime rates, especially murder and rape. DNA 4 Africa is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping African countries maximise the potential of forensic DNA.
Mr Asplen cited the case of the serial rapist and murderer Jack Mogale, who was sentenced to 16 life sentences in March, as an example of why SA needed to have the DNA database.
While police had obtained Mogale's DNA from some of his victims, they could not track him down because they did not have a database to check whether he had been arrested on any other crime. However, a police official who heard the description of the man, linked it to a person she had once arrested for another crime and knew an address, which turned out to be Mogale's.
Naseem Malik of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Switzerland, said the country's DNA database contained profiles of perpetrators, convicted felons and crime scene samples. He said last year, Switzerland was able to solve 3827 cases by matching the DNA obtained from the crime scenes with that in the database.
Mr Asplen said until recently, the US had focused on compiling a database only of convicted offenders. He said 26 states now included DNA samples of all people who had been arrested but had not been convicted.
Gauteng Judge President Bernard Ngoepe said SA had a serious problem of crime and there were complaints that judges were letting criminals go free.
"This is because a court bases its verdict on available evidence. With this kind of evidence at our disposal, I am sure we will avoid situations where guilty people walk free."
More in this section
- Disillusioned SA will learn to walk like Egyptians
- Chaskalson transcended his bias and loyalties
- EDITORIAL: The problem with ANC branches
- People were central to Chaskalson’s endeavours
- THICK END OF THE WEDGE: Zuma’s Get Out of Jail Free card
- NEWS ANALYSIS: ANC’s winner in Mangaung may still lack legitimacy
- Guptagate report shows manipulation, collusion and illegal blue lights
- Sasol plans office behemoth in Sandton
- SABC presenter Mbuli hailed as patriot and ‘zealous newshound’
- Karabus lawyer says South African nurse behind bars in UAE
- Eskom was ‘on the brink of a power shutdown’
- Iran ‘behind US cyber blitz’