DNA bill passes first reading

Parliament has passed the first reading of a bill that gives the police wider powers to take DNA samples but it will have to be carefully considered by a select committee.

Earlier this week Attorney-General Chris Finlayson presented a report which said the bill appeared to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act's provisions against unreasonable search and seizure.

Justice Minister Simon Power said he knew the bill would provoke strong public debate and he expected that would happen when the justice committee holds hearings on it.

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill allows DNA to be taken from anyone charged with an imprisonable offence.

Current law has a much higher threshold involving serious offences punishable by more than seven years.

Mr Power said it would come into force in two stages.

The first stage would allow police to take samples from people charged with a range of serious offences which would be wider than the present category.

The second stage would take place in 2001 when a sample could be taken from anyone charged with an imprisonable offence.

Mr Power said the Government's position was that DNA was simply a modern fingerprint, but he knew there would be opposition to it.

Mr Finlayson's report does not prevent Parliament from passing the bill.

Mr Power said the report would be considered by the justice committee when it examined the bill.

The first reading debate opened earlier this week and ended tonight with a 108-13 vote.

The Greens and the Maori Party opposed it.

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