“We hope the National Council of Provinces will realise the urgency required to approve the Forensic Procedures Amendment Bill or CO Bill as it is also known,” said Ian Cameron, director of community safety at Action Society. “It is critical that the police capture the DNA of convicted offenders before any more are released from prison.”
Action Society submitted its comments on the Bill to the NCOP’s Security & Justice Committee. The NCOP’s input is the final step before the National Assembly (NA) can pass a Bill.
If the NCOP rejects a Bill or proposes its own amendments, they return it to the NA, which will pass the Bill with or without taking into account the NCOP amendments, or it may decide not to proceed with the Bill. However, the NA previously accepted the Bill without any changes.
It took South Africa seven years to get to this point. The president fixed 31 January 2015 as the date on which the Forensic Procedures Act came into operation. However, it excluded Section 2 – which includes section 36D(1) – which provides for the mandatory taking of buccal samples (cheek swabs) from arrested, charged or convicted persons in respect of certain offences listed in Schedule 8. Convicted offenders also used the terms of Section 7(7) – which gave the police two years to capture buccal samples of imprisoned convicts – to get out of cheek swabs since the two-year timeframe expired.
On 23 August 2021 Action Society wrote a letter to the president to include Section 36D(1) and amend section 7 of the Forensic Procedures Act, threatening legal action if this did not happen. The Minister of Police then introduced and referred the Bill to the National Assembly Committee on 20 December 2021. After public comments, the Portfolio Committee on Police unanimously adopted the Bill unamended in May 2022.
“Even though we appreciate the speed with which the Bill moved through the process, no more time should be wasted on formalities,” said Cameron. “Finalise the Forensic Procedures Amendment Bill so we can go ahead to solve crimes where repeat offenders still roam free to commit violent acts.”
Action Society’s submission is available at this link.