(Trinidad Express) Government is not insensitive to the plight of victims of sex crimes, Justice Minister Herbert Volney said yesterday as he sought to justify the clause of the DNA bill that allows for a DNA sample to be taken from an alleged victim of sexual assault without consent.
He was speaking in the Senate yesterday Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
He said the purpose of the provision was not to infringe people’s rights, but to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are caught, including those who are considered serial rapists.
He said it is imperative that these persons are caught and brought to justice.
Citing Judy Raymond’s Sunday Express column in which she spoke of what she saw as this additional official violation of rape victims, Volney said as a former member of the bench he was aware that for reasons best known to the alleged victims, some individuals have also used false allegations as a means of accomplishing sinister ends.
He said admittedly such instances are in a minority. He added that there have also been instances where bona fide victims of the crime because of the trauma associated with the experience or for other reasons may have difficulty identifying the perpetrator of the crime.
Volney said the relevant clause provides for a police officer to make arrangements for a qualified (medical) person to examine a victim who has filed a report regarding the commission of a sexual offence.
But, he said, there was nothing in the provision that compels the person to attend and submit to the physical examination.
Where, however, the alleged victim agrees to attend such an examination, the qualified person may take a DNA sample, without the victim’s consent.
He said currently when such a victim is examined a sample is extracted for the purpose of determining whether or not semen has been deposited into the vaginal cavity.
The current examination does not provide for the identification of the perpetrator of the crime.
The bill would allow for a medical examiner to take DNA samples without the consent of the alleged victim during this examination and “the resulting DNA profile may establish the identity of the perpetrator,” Volney said.
The Minister also justified the provision which provides for the DNA samples to be kept for ten year. He said everyone remembers the Akiel Chambers case, which was a “painful remainder of what happens when a DNA sample is destroyed prematurely”.
Volney said the chance of error in DNA is very small. He said the probability of two unrelated individuals DNA profiles matching is on average less on one in one billion.
Citing the case of American Amanda Knox, who was accused of murdering her room-mate in Italy, he said questions on the accuracy reliability of DNA evidence speaks not to the evidence itself but the procedures employed in the collection and analysis of the sample.
Knox was eventually freed after the court found that the DNA evidence linking her to the crime was contaminated.