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Report Details


Committee Name:

Legislation Committee (1989 - 2001)

House:

Legislative Council
Report Type:Report

Title:

Forensic Procedures and DNA Profiling
Report No:46
No of Pages:20
Physical Location:Legislative Council Committee Office

Presentation Date:

12/10/1998
Related Report(s):Report No 48 - Forensic Procedures and DNA Profiling: The Committee's Investigations in Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States of America (19 Oct 1999)


Click here to view the report


Due to conflicts in technology in the production of this document, there may be pagination discrepancies from the original.
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Terms of reference

On 20 August 1998, following this Committee’s completion of its Report into the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998 ("Bill"), the Attorney General moved and the House agreed that the Committee conduct a further inquiry into matters raised by the Committee’s inquiry into the Bill.

The referral to the Committee was in the following terms:
      "That the Legislation Committee have power to inquire into and report on those recommendations, contained in the Committee’s report on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998, relating to the taking of forensic samples and stalking, that remain for consideration consequent upon the enactment of that Bill." Hansard, Legislative Council 20/8/1998, p583

The recommendations referred to in the motion are as follows.

At page 7 of the Report:
      "The Committee recommends that in the interests of the efficient and more effective resolution of crime, a broader examination of forensic procedures and DNA profiling is warranted including its effect on civil liberties and responsibilities." Legislative Council Standing Committee on Legislation, Report in Relation to Criminal Law Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1997, p7

At page 13 of the Report:
      "The Committee recommends that further work be undertaken to examine the issue of stalking so that all likely manifestations of stalking are included in the legislation. Appropriate measures should be included to ensure that breaches of restraining orders under the Restraining Orders Act 1997 and breaches of bail conditions under the Bail Act 1982 trigger appropriate offences under stalking legislation." ibid,p13

The Bill already reported on by the Committee included provisions relating to taking of DNA samples by police officers. However, the Bill did not deal with more complex issues such as the establishment of a DNA database, storage of DNA samples and DNA profiles, and the uses which can be made of DNA information, eg to assist in police investigations and as evidence. The Committee is investigating each of these fields of activity in the present inquiry.

Australian models

In pursuing the inquiry, most of the Committee’s investigations have thus far concerned the term of reference relating to DNA procedures and forensic profiling.

The Committee has visited the Western Australian Centre for Pathology and Medical Research ("Path Centre") to observe the forensic procedures (including DNA profiling) undertaken by the Path Centre. The Committee also travelled to Melbourne and Adelaide between the 5th and 9th of October 1998.

Victoria was the first State in Australia to enact comprehensive legislation dealing with forensic procedures, the Crimes (Amendment) Act 1993, which was enacted following the publication of the Report on Body Samples and Examinations by the Victorian Consultative Committee on Police Powers on Investigation ("the Coldrey Report"). These provisions were further strengthened by the Crimes (Amendment) Act 1997, which, among other things, provides for the taking of forensic samples from convicted offenders currently held in prison.

In Victoria the Committee met with representatives from the following departments and agencies:

- Victorian Police - Legislative Review and Proposals
- Victorian Police - Forensic Sample Implementation Committee
- Office of Public Prosecution - Policy Advisory/ Court Appeals Section
- State Coroner’s Office - Head of Forensic Medicine
- Attorney General’s Department - Policy Unit
- National Institute of Forensic Science
- Victorian Criminal Bar
- Law Institute of Victoria
- The Victorian Council for Civil Liberties
- Victorian Forensic Science Centre

The South Australian Parliament enacted the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 1998, containing extensive safeguards surrounding the taking of forensic samples. This Act, which at 10 December 1998 is yet to be proclaimed, is closely based on the Forensic Procedures Model Provisions (“Model Bill”) developed and approved in principle by the Model Criminal Code Officers’ Committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. In turn, the Model Bill draws on many of the recommendations contained in the Coldrey Report.

In South Australia the Committee met with representatives from the following departments and agencies:

- Forensic Science South Australia
- Forensic Odontology Unit
- Attorney General’s Department
- Director of Public Prosecutions
- South Australian Police - Prosecution Services
- South Australian Police - Policy and Projects
- South Australian Bar
- Law Society of South Australia

Proposed further investigation

The Committee proposes to investigate DNA databases in three jurisdictions - the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States - over 15 days in January and February 1999. The matters to be investigated are discussed in detail in Chapter 2 of this Report.

The jurisdictions to be investigated are world leaders in the taking, storage, analysis and use of DNA samples and DNA profiles. The respective significance of the jurisdictions for the purposes of the inquiry can be summarised as follows:

- The United Kingdom pioneered the development of DNA-related technology, has had a national DNA database in operation since 1995 and remains at the forefront of DNA forensic technology;

- Germany has a different but similarly advanced DNA system to that of the United Kingdom and has led the development of a trans-European and eventually international standard for DNA forensic technology; and

- The United States has a different DNA system and a different regulatory regime to that of the United Kingdom. It faces similar issues to Australia in having to combine the systems of a number of jurisdictions into a workable whole, under the umbrella of the FBI.

- As might be expected, each of these jurisdictions is advanced not only in the technology available to investigators, but also in consideration of the potential pitfalls, regulatory framework, safeguards and oversight of DNA technology. The Committee will meet with persons and organisations involved both in the technological aspects and the regulatory aspects of DNA databases.

- The Committee intends also to take the opportunity to collate evidence on any matters pertaining to the areas of stalking and sentencing.