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New Zealand: Police Given Greater Powers to Obtain DNA Samples

(Nov. 6, 2009) On October 28, 2009, the New Zealand Parliament passed legislation that will allow police to collect DNA from people arrested for certain offenses, without the need to obtain consent or apply for judicial approval. (Press Release, Hon. Simon Power, Parliament Passes DNA Law (Oct. 28, 2009), available at

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill 2009 was introduced in February 2009, following an election promise made by the National Party. Under the previous legislation, DNA could only be collected with consent, by judicial approval, or by compulsion after a person had been convicted of a serious offense (generally offenses punishable by seven years or more of imprisonment). (Id.)

From July 2010, under the first phase of the newly adopted Act's implementation, police will be able to collect DNA from any person whom they “intend to charge” with certain specified offenses. The list of offenses for which it is possible to collect DNA will be expanded to include minor offenses that have a link to more serious crimes and offenses where DNA is often left at the scene. A second phase of the amendment Act's implementation will extend the power to take DNA samples from all adults whom the police intend to charge with any offense punishable by imprisonment. The second phase will follow a review of the Act's operation by the Ministry of Justice. The Act is expected to be fully implemented by 2011. (Id.)

Implementation is being conducted in phases to allow police to finalize operational guidelines and conduct training and to ensure that the agency responsible for storing and matching DNA samples is prepared for the increase in workload. (Id.) The DNA databank currently holds 100,000 profiles, and it is estimated that an additional 16,000 will be collected in the first year under the new provisions. (Hon. Nathan Guy (Associate Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Minister of Justice), Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill — In Committee, Third Reading, Parliamentary Debates [Hansard (Debates)], House of Representatives (Oct. 15, 2009), available at

The legislation has been the subject of some controversy. The Attorney-General's report to Parliament on the bill upon its introduction found that the changes appeared to be inconsistent with the right against unreasonable search and seizure in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. (Hon. Chris Finlayson, Report of the Attorney-General Under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill, Feb. 10, 2009, available at

Both the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission raised concerns in their submissions to the parliamentary committee that considered the bill. (Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill – Submission by the Privacy Commissioner to the Justice and Electoral Committee, May 26, 2009, available at
; Press Release, Human Rights Commission, DNA Sample Bill Barrier to Rehabilitate Youth (May 14, 2009), available at

The main areas of concern were the lack of judicial supervision or authorization for the use of the new powers, and the broad range of offenses covered, which the Privacy Commissioner considered will create risks relating to individual privacy, public trust, and the efficiency of the system. The Green Party and the Maori Party also felt that the changes will have a disproportionate impact on Maori. (Greer McDonald, DNA Bill Raises Maori Party Concerns, THE DOMINION POST, Oct. 30, 2009, available at