What today should have been a celebration of the adoption of a critical weapon in South Africa’s arsenal of crime-fighting tools, instead ended in another infuriating delay in passing the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill (B25-2021) (CO Bill).
The reasons for the new delay cited by the Portfolio Committee for Police in Parliament were concerns about the SAPS’s capacity to process DNA profiles by the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory). While these concerns relating to the existing DNA backlog are valid, it should not be the reason to delay the adoption of this legislation.
The rate of recidivism in South Africa is one of the highest in the world, meaning that COs (convicted offenders) are more likely to be involved in crime than the general population and that their inclusion in the CO index in the National Forensic DNA Database is critical.
The delay in processing this CO Bill has reduced the overall effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System in South Africa. When the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 (“DNA Act”) was passed in January 2015, it fundamentally changed how forensic DNA profiling was used for the promotion of justice in South Africa and was heralded as a monumental step forward for South Africa in its fight against crime.