Countries around the world commit to fighting crime through DNA legislation
UPDATED 6 JUNE 2022:
South Africa’s Criminal Law Amendment Bill unanimously passed the Parliament on Tuesday, March 31, after much deliberation by the Parliament. The bill will allow for buccal samples to be collected from convicted offenders, expanding the period which those samples can be collected for the national database beyond the two years originally given.
Countries around the world are recognizing the benefit of DNA databases in solving and preventing crimes. India, Thailand, and South Africa have all introduced and are advancing new legislation regarding the collection and storage of DNA data through their legislative processes.
India’s Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill will authorize the National Crime Record to collect and store a host of biometric data and biological samples, including DNA samples, from convicted offenders and other persons, for 75 years. The bill passed both of India’s legislative bodies and was ratified by the President on April 18, 2022. Provisions were included to address concerns over data retention time period and the lack of specific language around from whom DNA samples could be collected. Notably, if an individual who has submitted a sample to the criminal registry is acquitted or otherwise not convicted of any charges, their biometric information collected for this purpose is removed from the database. The bill is closely tied to the Draft DNA Bill currently under consideration, which would establish a framework for creation of a national DNA database.
Thailand’s Genetic Data Bill will authorize the creation of a national DNA database, called the “Biometric Hub for Justice”, to hold the DNA information that is already collected each year in Thailand. The bill has received cabinet approval and will soon be proposed to the legislature. The bill has undergone multiple public hearings and has been adjusted to create safeguards against human rights violations and misuse of personal data, in accordance with Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act. Some of these protections include enacting civil penalties for those who misuse information contained in the database, should the data be used without consent of data owners or used nor for the expressed purpose.
South Africa’s “Criminal Law Amendment” bill addresses the failings of a previous Criminal Law bill, by expanding the period in which DNA samples can be collected for the national database beyond two years, and instituting provisions that allow law enforcement officers to require convicted offenders to provide samples. The bill has stalled in committee due to concerns over the ability of the South African Forensic Science Laboratory to process the DNA profiles, largely due to inadequate infrastructure. Provisions were included in the bill to address the concerns, including a clause to limit DNA backlog which allows the prioritization of those up for parole or are to be released.