12 Feb 2009

DNA bill passes first hurdle in Parliament

9:37 pm on 12 February 2009

Legislation requiring every person arrested for a crime punishable by prison to give DNA has passed its first hurdle in Parliament.

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill passed its first reading by 108 votes to 13 under urgency on Thursday evening.

The bill would extend the criteria for DNA testing of offenders. Any person arrested for a crime punishable by a prison term would give a DNA sample.

That sample would be destroyed if the person was later found not guilty.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson tabled his report on the bill on Wednesday, saying it is inconsistent with a section of the Bill of Rights that protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

Mr Finlayson says there is insufficient reason given about why safeguards against DNA testing have not been included in the legislation.

The Greens and the Maori Party voted against the bill, but it will be referred to the justice and electoral select committee for consideration.

The Green Party believes the current system, where a DNA sample can only be ordered by a High Court judge, is good enough.

The Maori Party warns there are too many loose ends in the planned law change.

Research, science and technology spokesperson Te Ururoa Flavell told Waatea News young Maori men are much more likely to be stopped and searched than non-Maori.

Mr Flavell says without additional safeguards, the bill is likely to lead to large stores of Maori DNA being held by police.