Justice Minister Herbert Volney said when the DNA Bill became law more criminals would be caught in T&T. He said so while presenting the bill for debate in the House of Representatives yesterday. It requires a three/fifths majority vote for passage. He said it would make DNA-testing "an established part of the criminal justice procedure and a routinely admissible element in court." The bill was brought to Parliament after widespread consultations with key stakeholders. It provides for intimate and non-intimate samples to be taken without consent from the accused. He said it would play a critical role in the advancement of the criminal justice system in T&T.
Volney said the anticipated increase in the use of DNA legislation in T&T "will serve as a deterrent to criminals and so reduce the crime rate. He stressed: "When the crime is done we will catch everyone of them once they leave any sort of their presence on the scene of the crime. That will be a deterrent to those who have God on the wrong side of their minds." Volney added that many African people, who were at the Immigration Detention Centre, cannot be repatriated because critical information to assist in that regard could not be found. He said with the legislation the problem would be resolved. He said the bill now provided for non-intimate samples to be taken by police officers.
Volney said the categories from whom non-intimate samples could be taken have expanded. He said it now included members of the protective services; holders of firearm licences; deported citizens and people from who samples were required in the interest of national security. He said DNA-testing facilities would be set up at all police stations. He said if citizens had "nothing to hide, they should have nothing to fear. Volney said the Government was committed to ensure that justice was served to the victim and the offender.
About the bill
The Administration of Justice (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Bill, 2011, which is being debated in the House of Representatives, will contravene several basic constitutional rights and therefore requires a three-fifths majority of votes to be passed. It seeks to repeal and replace the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Act, Chap 5:34, which sought to use DNA information, for forensic purposes, to classify tissue and body samples into two categories (intimate and non-intimate) and to distinguish the procedure by which each type of sample is obtained. The new legislation is intended to strengthen and expand the framework within which intimate and non-intimate samples can be taken for forensic DNA analysis. It provides for the taking of samples without consent from a suspect, detainee, accused or convicted person.
The bill also sets out the conditions under which DNA samples may be taken from victims of sexual offences, children or incapable persons, on grounds of national security, from citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who have been deported from any place outside the jurisdiction and from non-citizens who have been detained in Trinidad and Tobago under the Immigration Act.
Other key features include:
• The establishment of a National Forensic DNA Databank;
• appointment of a custodian and deputy custodian, responsible for receiving and storing all DNA profiles in the Forensic DNA Databank;
• establishment and maintenance of a DNA register;
• a provision enabling the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to enter into arrangements with foreign governments to share DNA data;
• a provision regulating the destruction and retention of samples; and
• a provision relating to the confidentiality of DNA data stored in the Forensic DNA Databank.
The bill also will provide that the Forensic Science Centre will be the official forensic DNA laboratory for Trinidad and Tobago.