Debate on the Administration of Justice (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Bill, 2011, had been stalled for almost a month after several Opposition and Independent Senators raised strong objections to the bill, which is meant to overhaul the current DNA legislative framework and replace it with a completely new system.
However, a copy of the modified bill, which has been obtained by Newsday, shows that several key adjustments have been made to the legislation, which requires a special majority. The bill has been redrafted taking into account almost all of the objections raised. In particular, the Government proposes to withdraw a controversial section which had proposed to give the State a right to take a DNA sample from a victim of a sexual offence without the victim’s consent.
Additionally, it will now be compulsory for the proposed National Forensic DNA Databank of Trinidad and Tobago to store DNA profiles “indefinitely”, subject to objections from the Commissioner of Police and victims of crimes who may have volunteered samples.
Section 7 (2) of the bill previously made it optional for the databank to store profiles indefinitely. The proposed amendment now reads: “DNA profiles stored in the Forensic DNA Databank shall be kept indefinitely.”
The DNA samples themselves, if not destroyed during DNA analysis, shall be kept for a minimum period of ten years, before being destroyed.
In relation to this controversial issue of taking samples without consent of a victim of rape or another sexual offence, the Section in the bill which empowered the State to take a sample without consent of the victim (Section 19(1)) has been entirely removed. It has been replaced with a new section which specifically preserves the right of the victim to withdraw his or her consent even after initially consenting to give a sample.
The new Section 19 now contains a subsection which reads: “(3) A qualified person who proposes to take a sample from a complainant shall–(a) obtain the consent of the complainant or his representative...before the sample is taken,