News Item

June 2016

VUW research publication examines the state's power to obtain and retain DNA

Research into the pre-trial collection and retention of DNA in New Zealand was carried out by Dr Nessa Lynch, senior lecturer in law at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW). Results of the study, published late in 2015, concluded that individual rights must be carefully balanced with the public good when setting the rules around acquiring DNA material from criminal suspects.

Book cover image of The Collection and Retention of DNA from Suspects in New Zealand

Dr Lynch worked with Dr Liz Campbell, from the University of Edinburgh, on the project and they released their findings in a jointly authored book titled “The Collection and Retention of DNA from suspects in New Zealand”. The book analyses the state’s power to retain DNA from people not convicted of a criminal offence.

The authors note that New Zealand was an early adopter of DNA technology and compulsory acquisition in 1995, but the law has expanded rapidly, in piecemeal fashion, since then.

Drawing on UK and Canadian experience, the authors’ recommendations include: reinstating a “neutral arbiter” in the decision to require a bodily sample, constraints on Police discretion to acquire samples, and judicial authorisation for using force to acquire samples.

“While DNA is a valuable tool for the prevention, detection and prosecution of crime, its limitations must also be considered when gauging the public interest in powers to collect and retain material…it is not a “magic bullet” for crime detection,” the authors said.

The authors hope that their book will provide a basis for review of the Criminal Investigations (Body Samples) Act.

Further information about the book

The Law Foundation provided $26,000 funding for this project.

Note – information about publications related to Law Foundation–funded projects is available via the publications pages on the Law Foundation’s web site. This includes:

legal research reports
legal research publications (books and videos)
addresses and conference papers (videos too).