Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fishing for DNA IV

Another day, another story of police abusing their powers to coerce "voluntary" DNA samples from people:

Yesterday a 24-year-old Pacific Island woman, who did not want to be named, told the Herald she had been pressured into giving a sample at Auckland Central police station earlier this month.

She was driving in Grey Lynn without a licence and was stopped by police, and then taken to the station.

"An officer wanted me to give a DNA sample. I told him I didn't want to do it, but he told me if I wanted to go home quickly, then I would have to give the DNA," she said.

"He said all the officers were doing it and were trying to get everyone to do it in case I was raped or murdered, so they could identify my body. I felt violated and like I had no rights, like I was forced to do it and they could have done anything to me if I didn't do it."

Merilyn McAuslin told the Herald her son was under duress when he gave a DNA sample in 2005, when he was 17 and in high school.

He was out with friends, one of whom graffitied a building, and their car number plate was reported.

When he went to the Newmarket police station with his mother, he was intimidated by an officer to identify the person who had done the graffiti.

He started to have a panic attack and was taken outside for some air and water. Mrs McAuslin said within a couple of minutes, a female police officer said a driving charge against her son would be dropped if he gave a DNA sample. "She got the DNA in a real moment of weakness for us."

Both of these people are going to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and so they should. In both cases, police have used false pretences and the threat of prolonged detention to coerce "consent". And that makes it no consent at all.

I'd also point out that people can withdraw their consent after a sample is taken. Unless they've been convicted of a relevant offence, or are currently a suspect in a relevant crime, their sample and all records of it must be destroyed immediately. I strongly suggest that anyone who has been coerced into giving a sample in this way exercise this right, and have it destroyed.

Meanwhile, we clearly need sanctions to prevent police from abusing their powers in this way. There's a bill here which does exactly that (a properly formatted version is available on request). Any MP want to take a stand?