Compulsory DNA testing
The NSW Labor Government is set to put legislation before State Parliament making DNA testing by a mouth swab compulsory on arrest and for all prisoners. "The legislation calls for a strong opposition", said the Justice Action organisation. "We are calling on organisations to actively defend basic human rights for those arrested and imprisoned." "Compulsory DNA mouth swabbing is an invasive, dehumanising process", said Justice Action. There are considerable doubts over the reliability and integrity of the testing and the use it could be put to. In New Zealand, an error in the DNA testing resulted in the prime suspect of rape not being committed. Later, after several more rapes, new tests showed a match and he was charged. In another case, the victim of assault was nearly charged with murder because poor procedures gave a false match when a sample of his DNA turned up in another test. Fortunately, the innocent assault victim had a watertight alibi in another part of the country at the time of the murder. In the USA, the FBI's laboratory — the main public laboratory where DNA testing is carried out — is under investigation by the Justice Department for faking results. A Californian laboratory is also under similar investigation and other laboratories are being investigated for not using stringent enough testing procedures. Unlike fingerprinting, which makes a one on one match, the technology for DNA testing only tests a genome sequence. There is a 1 in 200,000 risk of matching by chance. Justice Action told The Guardian that if each of NSW's prisoners were tested — there are almost 8,000 — against the 15,000 DNA crime scene samples on record, then with a probability of 1 in 200,000 of a match, under the law of averages there might be 500 mismatches. A lottery you wouldn't want to win. In the USA and Britain it is recommended that laboratories have blind tests — ones where matches are known prior testing — to see what the laboratories come up with. In one instance in the USA, where known samples were sent for testing, there was a false rate of one percent in the results. In Victoria, legislation is already in place for the compulsory testing of all prisoners, regardless of whether they are under suspicion of crime. Justice Action is proposing that if the DNA of prisoners (and others whose DNA is on police records) is to be tested in relation to unresolved crimes, then prisoners should be allowed to apply the tests to previous convictions to see if they have been wrongly convicted. Justice Action is also asking for a fund for compensation to be established for those who have been wrongfully convicted. DNA testing could play an important role. The question is how it is used, and how the privacy and rights of individuals are treated. Shades of police state There is also the awesome prospect of DNA records being kept on ALL Australians and how easily these could be used to monitor and frame people — an ID system more frightening than the aborted Australia Card. This is not as far-fetched as it might sound. The NSW Police have applied for all of the results of DNA testing on babies to put on their own data base. Hospitals carry out testing on around 98 per cent of babies.