DNA Bill expected next month in Jamaica

by jeeg 10. January 2013 22:57

THE revised draft of the DNA Bill should be among the first pieces of legislation ready for tabling when Parliament resumes next month.


A draft of the Bill was sent to the Ministry of National Security for review last month.

Permanent secretary in the ministry Dr Ann-Marie Barnes confirmed that the draft was received and said that it was reviewed by ministry officials, along with the police and forensic experts. She said some amendments were made before the revised draft was sent back to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

The ministry is now awaiting the new draft, which it will send to Cabinet for approval.

The process began with the previous PNP administration of 2002-2007 and was continued through the former JLP government of 2007-2011. Minister of National Security Peter Bunting has promised that the Bill will be tabled in the House of Representatives before the current session of Parliament ends in March 2013.

The police high command has repeatedly complained that the Jamaica Constabulary Force is being hampered in its fight against crime without the use of DNA evidence.

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding explained in 2009 that the drafting was taking some time in order to examine carefully certain legal issues that arose from the drafting instructions. In addition, he said that adequate provisions would have to be made for persons named as fathers, who deny the assertion, to be able to challenge such an assertion and for it to be determined by scientific evidence. The only conclusive means of doing so is by way of DNA testing, he said. Therefore, the legislation was contingent on other pieces to regulate the taking of DNA samples and their admissibility in court.

Former information minister, Daryl Vaz disclosed last September that approval had been given by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to include the recommendations in the preparation of legislation related to the use of DNA evidence.

He said that the proposals included replacing dental impressions with buccal swabs when defining intimate samples, destruction and retention of samples, the introduction of a national DNA database, and the designation of the director of the Forensic Science Laboratory as a custodian of the database.

Approval was also given for an assessment of the operations of the forensic laboratories.

 Balford Henry, Jamaica Observer



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