South Africa

New DNA laws for South Africa from February

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the commencement of parts of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, which will give the country’s law enforcement additional tools around DNA collection and usage in capturing and prosecuting criminals.

From 31 January, a suspect arrested and charged with a schedule 8 offence will be required to provide a DNA sample which will be uploaded onto the National Forensics DNA database. Schedule 8 offences include some of the country’s most serious violent crimes – including murder and rape.

Civil society organisation Action Society has welcomed the promulgation by Ramaphosa, which it says will assist in addressing cold cases, and should see an increase in successful prosecutions.

“DNA remains the most effective crime-fighting tool. The sampling of schedule 8 arrestees will make a huge impact in solving cold cases, identifying repeat offenders and assisting in successful prosecutions of rapists and murderers,” said spokesperson Elanie van der Walt.

Taking a DNA sample of a suspected perpetrator even before a court date is set will massively increase the successful prosecution rate and assist law enforcement in clamping down on perpetrators, the group said.

These DNA samples will populate the National Forensics DNA Database (NFDD) which will enable law enforcement to link perpetrators to cold cases, identify repeat offenders and get more perpetrators prosecuted.

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Last year, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lomola, confirmed that 96,875 schedule 8 (violent crime) offenders have been released on parole since 2016 without submitting a DNA sample.

“Although DNA sampling of schedule 8 arrestees is now compulsory, it is important that this legislation be acted on immediately and not just seen as another piece of paper.

“The South African Police Service (SAPS) will have to ensure that their stations are equipped with the necessary consumables to do the sampling and police members must urgently receive training in order for this legislation to have a positive impact in the fight against violent crime, especially gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), in our country,” said van der Walt.

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