Jun 16, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Taking into account the concerns raised by the Guyana Bar Association in relation to the proposed amendments to the Police Act to allow for the taking of DNA samples from persons in custody, Attorney General, Anil Nandlall SC has committed to revising the document.
Nandlall’s decision to review the Police Act comes after the GBA released a strongly worded statement raising concerns over the lack of consultation as it relates to several pieces of legislation. The GBA highlighted specifically the amendments to the Police Act which allows for DNA collection, noting that the proposed change will create room for ‘misuse and mischief’ by law enforcement.
In response to complaints, Nandlall said that the government has taken note of the concerns raised by the GBA and will seek to have them addressed. He said that he has already discussed with the issue with Minster of Homes Affairs, Robeson Benn, who has agreed that the proposed amendment will be reviewed to address the issue raised.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Bar Association raised concerns over the lac
k of consultation as it relates to at least seven pieces of legislation published in the Official Gazette, between, June 4 and 12, 2021.
The Bar Association noted specifically that the “Bill tabled for DNA collection from persons in custody”, reports on “the very troubling proposed amendment to the Police Act” by way of the Police (Amendment) Bill No. 8 of 2021.
The GBA said that the said Bill inter alia proposes to amend Section 25 of the Police Act, Cap. 16:01 to empower a member of the Police Force, for the purpose of identification, to take the ‘DNA’ of any person who may from time to time be in lawful custody.
Further, the Association noted that “the proposed amendment, if passed in its current form, without more, can result in the gross erosion and infringement of a person’s constitutional rights.”
“Inter alia,” the Bar Association noted that “Article 143 of the constitution protects against the search of a person without his/her consent or an Order of the Court.”
As such, the Bar Association said that it therefore finds it “wholly unacceptable” that the power to obtain DNA from the body would be placed in the hands of a member of the Police Force without oversight and sufficient safeguards.
It explained too that DNA evidence is a useful tool in proving the guilt or innocence of an accused.
“However,” the Bar noted that “the obtaining of that information merely on arrest, without consent or Order of Court, is alarming and dangerous.
It said “Generally, DNA can only be obtained from the body by invasive means, which also raises concerns of state sanctioned assault, if done without consent.”
The GBA stressed that the proposed amendment lays fertile ground for much mischief in the event of its misuse, without due and proper safeguards. Given the circumstances, the Association said, the proposed amendment in its current form does not have its support.
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