Posted on 05. Oct, 2010 in News

The investigation and prosecution of criminals will be made easier by a proposed new law that will give police broader powers to collect DNA evidence, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said today.

Mr Hulls said the Crimes Amendment (Forensic Procedures) Bill to be introduced into Parliament today would make the prosecution of criminals easier by simplifying the procedures for obtaining and processing DNA.

“The legislation will enable police to take DNA samples in a much wider range of offences providing valuable evidence in the prosecution of criminal offences. It will also simplify the collection and use of those samples,” Mr Hulls said.

“The investigation stage is vital to identifying people involved in criminal activity and the reforms will assist police by giving them more powers so they can effectively and reliably conduct criminal law investigations and enforcement.”

Mr Hulls said the legislation also provided for independent oversight by the independent Special Investigations Monitor, whose role and functions will be taken by a new Investigations Inspector under proposed changes following the Proust Review. The legislation will ensure an ongoing oversight role in monitoring compliance with forensic procedures.

“While DNA powers are significantly increased, the independent Special Investigations Monitor or its replacement will provide greater scrutiny in the process so that all personal information obtained by Victoria Police is handled appropriately,” Mr Hulls said.

“In this way, the legislation reflects a balance between the need for effective law enforcement, on the one hand, and the need to safeguard privacy and human rights in the conduct of criminal investigations, on the other.

“Greater forensic powers will assist in tackling crime and the new oversight process proposed will oversee and audit DNA processes, helping to increase the reliability of DNA evidence,”

Mr Hulls said the proposed changes brought Victoria into line with other Australian jurisdictions. The legislation expands the range of offences for which police can take a DNA sample to include all indictable offences, simplifies the test under which a police officer can take a DNA sample, and gives courts the discretion to grant police a longer extension to hold a suspect’s DNA sample.

It follows the report by former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent into the wrongful conviction of Farah Jama. The Government accepts Mr Vincent’s recommendations in relation to the use, collection and improved procedures in relation to DNA evidence and is in the process of implementing them.

Mr Hulls said the proposed changes would be complemented by the overhaul of criminal investigation powers in the upcoming Criminal Investigation Powers Bill, which will simplify and improve other investigation powers governing questioning of suspects, fingerprinting and powers of arrest.

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