PrivacyLive: Reviewing DNA use in criminal investigations

1 Oct 2018, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Ellen Melville Centre, 2 Freyberg Place, Auckland Central, Auckland, New Zealand Map

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The Law Commission is reviewing the way DNA is used in criminal investigations. DNA can be obtained from crime scene samples and compared to DNA that has been obtained from suspects or other known persons. Due in part to how the science has progressed in the last 20 years, this process raises an array of legal, social and ethical issues - including several that relate to privacy.

Kate McKenzie-Bridle, Senior Legal and Policy Adviser from the Law Commission Te Aka Matua o te Ture, will explore some of the questions around the use of DNA in law enforcement and how the answers impact on law reform in this area.

For example, should Police be able to analyse DNA collected from a crime scene to find out the likely ethnicity of the person who left that DNA? Is that personal information, even though the identity of the person is unknown at the time that the information is collected? If so, what does that mean in terms of the competing privacy and law enforcement interests?

Another example is the process of “familial searching”. This is when a scientist compares DNA left at a crime scene to a databank of DNA profiles from known persons - with the aim of identifying a near match. A near match may signify that a relative of the person on the databank left the DNA at the crime scene. Should the information on the databank be able to be used to identify people’s relatives as suspects? Whose information is it? Do families have a collective privacy interest in their DNA?

For a taster of the issues around DNA sampling and testing in law enforcement, visit the Law Commission's website here:

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