OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark yesterday told the Senate that gaps in the regulations to effect the DNA Act expose specimens to tampering, as he also lamented the failure of DNA testing to resolve the murder of Akiel Chambers, 11, on May 24, 1998.
Mark said, “Swabs that were taken from this child at that material time had just gone missing from the Forensic Science Centre. They say there was an underwear, a shorts...”
Challenged by Senate President Christine Kangaloo, Mark said, “I’m just showing you the centre seemed to be a hotbed for all kinds of activity. So they steal material from the centre, the centre is understaffed, there are thousands of matters pending at the centre, and this is the same centre we have now designated as the official centre for DNA sampling.”
He lamented challenges at the centre and that nothing had been heard of a new one, announced five years ago, for Carlsen Field.
Mark said even under the regulations, gaps exist in the centre’s standards, so that DNA samples can end up contaminated. He said if the facility is not accredited to world standards such as ISO, anything can happen.
He feared the DNA custodian would be accountable to only the line minister and Cabinet appointing him.
Independent Senator Taurel Shrikissoon lamented the low detection rate for murders, typically below 20 per cent, and said if the regulations can help reduce the rate, he’d support them, but he had concerns. He urged the custodian not visit the centre just once a year, the minimum listed in the regulations, but rather to ensure the FSC can do a proper DNA analysis “at all times.”
Shrikissoon said the custodian had too much autonomy but should instead be subject to checks and balances. He hoped the regulations would specify the types of swab and sample kit to be used, and how specimens are to be stored and transported. If DNA samples are to be shared with the governments of other countries, what assurances were there they’d be handled confidentially?