Forensic Procedures - Victims' Rights

 To download a pamphlet on your rights, please click here (PDF)

 

What is forensic science?

Crime scene investigation has developed over centuries.  Today the careful examination of evidence is an important tool in solving crime.  Forensic science deals with crime scene investigation.

A part of crime scene investigation is the collection of evidence through forensic procedures.

What is a forensic procedure?

Examples of common forensic procedures are:

  • taking a sample of your DNA;

  • taking your fingerprint(s);

  • making a dental impression; or 

  • conducting a medical examination

Why do police seek DNA samples or fingerprints?

All people at a crime scene always leave some material such as a hair, body fluid, fibre from clothing, and or other signs of who was there.

Taking DNA or fingerprints from a victim or volunteer is done so the police can work out what material belongs to the suspect. To do this every other person who has been at the crime scene has to be identified, as well.

Without the help of victims and volunteers, the police can never be certain where DNA found at a crime scene comes from.

For example, in the case of a burglary the suspect may have drunk a glass of water at the crime scene.  This glass may have the burglarís DNA or fingerprints.  The police need to rule out the people living in the house as the source that DNA or fingerprints.  For this purpose, these people could be asked to volunteer a forensic sample for testing.

When investigating sexual assault cases, victims may be asked to have an examination to collect evidence of the assault (such as semen).  It may also be necessary to collect the DNA of the victim's recent consensual partners, if any, to rule them out as the source of DNA found on the swabs taken from the victim. This way the police will know that the DNA is from the suspect.

An examination could also look at other things that happened during an offence committed on a victim.  For example, if a victim was injured this might involve photographing any injury such as bruises.

Do I have to give a forensic sample?

As a volunteer or victim, it is your free choice to give a sample. You will be asked to provide your consent to the sample being taken. You can change your mind at any time prior to or whilst the sample is being taken, just by telling the person taking the sample that you no longer wish to give a sample. 

If you are under 16 years of age or have some difficulty understanding what occurs when a forensic procedure is conducted due to a physical or mental disability, consent can be provided either by a next of kin or a guardian.  In some cases a Senior Police Officer can allow the procedure to be conducted.  A forensic procedure will not proceed if before or during the procedure you object to the procedure.    (This rule does not apply in certain circumstances, in particular persons under 10 years of age.)

How will the forensic procedure be done?

A sample has to be taken in a way that lessens any harm or embarrassment to you and avoids offending your cultural or religious beliefs. The number of people present when a sample is taken will be kept to a minimum.

If an examination of the genital or anal region, buttocks or (for women) breast is required, it will be done if reasonably practicable by a person of your own sex unless you ask for a person of the opposite sex.

Can I have a witness of my choice present for certain procedures?

You can have a doctor of your choice present if a blood sample (other than a finger-prick DNA sample) is to be taken or a sample is to be taken from insider your mouth (other than a buccal swab for DNA) or if the sample it to be collected from your genital or anal region, buttocks, or (for women) breasts.

The doctor can be your witness to the procedure, but is not allowed to take part in it or obstruct it.  You will have to pay any fee charged by your doctor.

If you are a child (under 16 years) or are suffering from a physical or mental disability, a witness must be present during the procedure.  This could be a friend, relative or an advocate.

Can I have an Interpreter present?

Yes.  An interpreter can be present and help you during a forensic procedure.  You do not have to organise or pay for this service.

What happens to the evidence collected from me?

The forensic evidence will be analysed by the Police or Forensic Science SA or a similar agency.  Your DNA, for example, could be checked against other DNA found at the crime scene.

Can I set limits on the use of my DNA profile?

You can choose what happens to your DNA profile.

Sometimes the police might ask to put your DNA profile on the South Australia DNA database, which is a collection of DNA profiles used to help solve crime and identification matters. You can tell the police that you do not want this to happen.

If you agree to put your DNA profile on the database you can set limits on how long police can store your profile. 

You can also choose to limit how police use your DNA profile when it is on the DNA database. This can be done by telling police which of the South Australia DNA databases indices (categories) you permit them to match your profile with.

If you are concerned about the possible use of your DNA profile or want further information, you can consult a lawyer.

Can I ask to have my forensic sample destroyed?  

Yes

Section 12 of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act, 2007

Provision of Information to a Relevant Person

 

Right To Request The Destruction Of The Forensic Sample Or Material Under Section 39

         You can ask police to destroy your forensic material at any time; or, if you gave consent on behalf of someone else, you can ask for the destruction of his or her forensic material.

         Your request needs to be in writing, addressed to:

      Commissioner of Police

      GPO Box 1539

      ADELAIDE SA 5001

      Attention: Officer in Charge

      Forensic Services Branch

         Police must then either destroy the sample within 21 days or apply for an order to keep it.

         If the police wish to keep the sample, you will have a chance to be heard before a decision is made.

If you are under 16 and someone else has given consent to the procedure on your behalf, once you are 16 you can request the destruction of your forensic material. Alternatively, the person who gave the consent can request the destruction of your forensic material.

 

To order a 'hard copy' pamphlet on victims' rights under the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act, 2007, please:

Email: voc@agd.sa.gov.au  or
Post: Commissioner for Victims' Rights
GPO Box 464
Adelaide, SA, 5001
 
Last Modified: 31 January 2012
URL: http://www.voc.sa.gov.au