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Cops, prison officers, soldiers to give mandatory DNA samples

Published: 
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

It will be mandatory for almost 70,000 people—including police and prison officers, soldiers and private security firm personnel— to give DNA cell samples to the State under regulations to operate law using DNA material in the justice process.

In the Senate yesterday, Attorney General Faris Al- Rawi confirmed the categories of those from whom mandatory DNA samples will be sought. He was speaking on a motion to effect regulations to operationalise the DNA law, designed to assist the crime-solving thrust and administration of justice.

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Samples can be collected various ways including via buccal (cheek) swabs and saliva samples.

Al- Rawi said the DNA law was in the making since 1999 and it’s taken six year to operationalise it . He noted there’s been 13, 630 sexual offence cases since 2000 with 321 convictions— none solved with DNA use.

Al-Rawi said DNA sampling could have found the perpetrator of the Akiel Chambers murder, “Akiel Chambers! That beautiful boy, he’d have been 31 years by now - God rest his soul,” he added.

The AG said the DNA regulations requiring a database also make it mandatory for DNA samples to be taken from various security sectors— 6,839 police officers, 3,329 prison officers, 5,062 Defence Force personnel, 2,190 fire officers, 375 Immigration personnel, 306 Customs officers.

Samples will also be mandatory for all private security firm personnel.

As well, samples will be mandatory for 1,515 convicts, 2,317 in Remand Yard plus approximately 1,000 arrestees monthly. Suspects, detainees, deportees and similar others will have to give samples. He estimated it would be around 60,00o to 70,000 people, total.

Al-Rawi said a DNA Custodian has been retained, 11 people recruited to operate “hardware for the plan and the Prime Minister was expected to speak yesterday about a new Forensic Institute. Some 15,000 DNA (cheek swab) kits are also being cleared after arrival.

“It’s high time for this after 19 years, thousands of cases and billions spent, “ Al-Rawi added.

UNC Senator Wade Mark , expressing concern that almost 70,000 people may be “forced “ (sic) to give their DNA samples without consent , called for information on standards guiding the process. He queried whether there would be training for police taking DNA swabs.

Saying samples could be contaminated, fabricated or affected he warned people’s safety could be compromised without proper systems. He said he was aware the DNA Custodian was Jamaican and was working since January - but didn’t know their credentials. and was concerned if they were a political appointee.

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