“President Ramaphosa must make haste in finally signing the DNA Bill into law,” said Ian Cameron, director of community safety at Action Society. “We are now just one step away from technically making South Africa a safer place against serial criminality.”
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) adopted the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill – better known as the DNA or CO (convicted offenders) Bill – without any amendments. According to the law process, that is the final approval step before it goes to the president. When passed, it will make it mandatory to take the buccal samples of all arrested, charged or convicted persons in respect of certain offences listed in Schedule 8, as well as waiving the expired two years the police had to take samples of convicted detained offenders.
It took seven years to get the Bill approved by the National Assembly (NA). Only after Action Society threatened legal action in August 2021 the Minister of Police Bheki Cele finally introduced the Bill. The delay led to thousands of arrested, charged or convicted Schedule 8 offenders being released from detention without capturing their buccal DNA samples. Action Society, Andrew Whitfield (MP), and DNAforAfrica were vital in pushing the Bill through the legal process.
According to DNAforAfrica, 96 785 violent crime offenders have been released on parole since 2016 without submitting a DNA sample. Its founder, Dr Vanessa Lynch, welcomed the NCOP adopting the DNA Bill. She said that a DNA database supported by the government is one of the most powerful tools for identifying serial offenders. Lynch said that, in light of the horrific incidents in Krugersdorp and recently released crime stats, allowing a convicted offender to be released without their DNA sample having been taken represents a lost opportunity to reduce the high recidivism rate in this country. Furthermore, passing the CO Bill will further give survivors of sexual violence more confidence in the criminal justice system in reporting crimes, she told Action Society.
“If the system works effectively, many of the victims of serial murder and GBVF offenders will now see justice,” said Cameron. “We are, however, aware of the immense DNA backlog the police face but hope that passing this law will at least be a starting point to link arrested, charged or convicted persons with any previous crimes going forward.”