Collection of cell material from suspect for DNA analysis already possible

Within the context of handling the problem of untraceable convicted persons, a legislative proposal makes it possible to collect cell material from suspects for DNA analysis already during the investigation phase. At this time, cell material cannot be collected until someone has been convicted of a serious crime. However, practice shows that not all of these convicted persons can be traced. The legislative proposal therefore regulates that cell material can already be collected after the suspect has been arrested by the police. This cell material is stored securely and may only be used to draw up a DNA profile following a conviction.

Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius of Justice and Security today presented the legislative proposal for consultation for the purpose of amending the DNA Testing (Convicted Persons) Act. The operation of the DNA Testing (Convicted Persons) Act was discussed with the House of Representatives several times over the past years. The wish was expressed to be able to collect cell material at an earlier stage during the criminal proceedings. This occurred in particular pursuant to reports from the Hoekstra Committee. This committee was formed following the tragic murder of two persons by Bart van U.; namely former Minister Els Borst and his sister Loïs. It became clear that no cell material was collected from Bart van U. following a previous conviction in 2012, while that should have happened pursuant to the law.

The possibilities and preconditions for collecting cell material at an earlier stage during the criminal proceedings were investigated over the past years. Improvements were also made in the implementation of the DNA Testing (Convicted Persons) Act by the cooperating organisations involved, including the Public Prosecution Service, the police and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI). The overwhelming majority of convicted persons for whom an alert has been issued is traced. However, it proves difficult to collect cell material in some cases, especially from among the group of convicted persons without a known address.

DNA database

At this time, more than 10 percent of convicted persons remains out of the picture, which means that their profile does not end up in the DNA database. According to the researchers, this not or hardly attributable to the manner in which the act is implemented, but is related to the fact that they cannot be found or because they are out of reach of the police and judicial authorities abroad. The proposed legislative amendment changes the procedure in such a manner that the cell material is not collected until after someone has been convicted. The police will collect cell material while the suspect is still in the picture. This involves every arrested suspected who is still suspected of a serious crime after having been interviewed or after police custody has ended.

DNA profile in case of conviction

Although cell material is collected at an earlier stage, this does not necessarily mean that it may be used for DNA analysis immediately. The reason being that the other powers in the DNA Testing (Convicted Persons) Act are not expanded. After the cell material is collected it is stored in a separate secure environment. The past years were used among other things to conduct research into the preconditions and possibilities for constructing this secure environment. It can be set up further on the basis of the legislative handling.

As prescribed by the DNA Testing (Convicted Persons) Act, the cell material collected must not be used to draw up a DNA profile until after a conviction when this is ordered by the Public Prosecutor. The cell material is destroyed when the person concerned is no longer considered to be a suspect. It is expected that the new way of working will make it possible to actually include a DNA profile in the DNA database of almost every convicted person whose profile should be included in the DNA database.