Mandatory DNA samples are now taken from criminals guilty of serious crimes, a move hailed as a “major step” in solving and preventing crime, particularly sex crimes.
The amendments to Section 36D(1 ) of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act were signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa on January 13 and apply to persons convicted of Schedule 8 offenses.
Schedule 8 crimes are rape, murder, human trafficking, robbery and negligent homicide.
“Offenders don’t just commit a crime. For example, a burglar could also be a rapist. So if he is arrested in an HB [burglary] case and his DNA is taken, it could be linked to a rape case,” said forensic psychologist Prof Gerard Labuschagne.
Civil rights organization Action Society, the advocated the change welcomed the announcement.
“DNA remains the most effective crime-fighting tool, and sampling from Schedule 8 arrestees will have a tremendous impact on resolving unsolved cases, identifying repeat offenders and Assisting in the successful prosecution of rapists and murderers,” spokeswoman Elanie van der Walt said.
Van der Walt said the DNA samples would be entered into the National Forensic DNA Database (NFDD), which would then be available to law enforcement linking would bring offenders to unsolved cases, identify repeat offenders, and prosecute more offenders.
“Although the DNA sampling of Schedule 8 arrestees is now mandatory, it is important that this legislation is implemented immediately and not seen as just another piece of paper.
“Th The SA Police Service (SAPS) needs to ensure that its stations are equipped with the necessary consumables for sampling, and that police officers need urgent training for this legislation to have a positive impact on combating violent crime, particularly gender-based violence and feminicide (GBVF) in our country,” said her.
Labuschagne said he hoped the forensic science lab would have the capacity to process the samples and that DNA reference kits would be freely available to the police.
“I also hope there is enough training for SAPS members on how to take such samples. Also, that commanders track that DNA is taken when a suspect is arrested (meaning the law is enforced).
Police Minister Bheki Cele said last May the national backlog of forensic science labs was at 208,291 cases. Gauteng had the largest DNA residue at 115%, followed by the Western Cape at 113%, KwaZulu-Natal at 81% and the Eastern Cape at 44%.
Cele said that measures would be taken to resolve this issue, with the aim of clearing the backlog within 18 months.