DNA and Crime

Publication Date 
27 November 2017

Detective Jess - buccal swabThe Law Commission has launched a website of four short stories that look at how Police could use DNA science to investigate crime.

The website follows Detective Jess Hodges in the fictional town of Pohewa as she investigates crimes that prompt various questions:  such as when Police should be able to obtain DNA from people and how long should they keep it?  

The stories also highlight scientific advances in DNA and ask whether scientists should be able to analyse DNA found at crime scenes for the likely ethnicity or other genetic characteristics of the DNA owner*. Law Commissioner Donna Buckingham says the website is a simple, short introduction to some of the legal issues that New Zealand faces.

“This is not our formal consultation. We will be publishing a detailed Issues Paper in April next year. Rather, this is a chance to people to learn about the issues and share their first thoughts with us as we write that Issues Paper.”

Donna Buckingham says another issue arising since the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 became law is that Police now have much broader powers to obtain DNA from people suspected of committing offences without the need for Court oversight.

The Law Commission is consulting on when it is appropriate for Police to obtain and retain DNA and what protections the law needs to put in place.

*Footnote: ESR will only carry out this analysis when the police authorise it. It is only done in serious cases, when all other avenues have been explored and exhausted.