Senate agrees to DNA relationship test

Today, the Upper House agreed to the use of DNA relationship tests in the fight against crime. This involves a new type of DNA test by which it can be ascertained whether a relative of the person whose DNA has been tested by the police and the Public Prosecution Service, is a potential offender of a crime. The application of relationship tests is urgently needed in the field.

If the standard DNA test fails to provide any results, the identity of a suspect may yet be established or a potential suspect may yet be excluded by means of a relationship test, under specific circumstances. As it happens, cellular material contains information on the donor of the material, as well as information on relatives. It is hereditary material, half of which is identical to a person’s father, whilst the other half is identical to a person’s mother. As DNA profiles of relatives are to a certain extent identical, a comparison of the DNA profile of a known person with the DNA profile of a trace secured from an unsolved crime may indicate whether the trace can be from a relative of that person. This may provide useful information in the criminal investigation.

Relationship testing may be applied under specific conditions only. For example, a relationship test using the DNA profiles of suspects and convicted persons from the DNA database is only permitted if the trace contains a full or sufficiently informative DNA profile. Additionally, a written authorisation of the investigating judge is required for a relationship test using the DNA profiles from the DNA database, and the test must be performed for the investigation of a very serious violent or sexual offence. These extra safeguards are of vital importance with a view to the drastic nature of this authority with regard to the privacy of the persons involved.