- No one, whether convicted or otherwise, should be forced to give a medical sample of any kind unless it has been determined in open court that their right to bodily integrity and genetic privacy is exceeded by overwhelming issues of public interest in the evidence likely to be produced.
2. Police and prison officers should play no part in gaining consent for voluntary forensic procedures nor collecting forensic evidence.
3. Forensic samples and the profiles they produce should remain the ‘property’ of the person who sourced them whenever that is known, no matter how they were obtained. When they are no longer required as evidence control of them should revert to that person. It is totally unacceptable for government to hang onto samples and profiles indefinitely or pass them on as they see fit.
4. The mass databasing and crossmatching of DNA profiles in an attempt to gain ‘cold hits’ which might provide evidence in ‘suspectless’ crimes exceeds the theoretical and practical limitations of forensic DNA testing, and will result in wrongful convictions if permitted. It is totally unacceptable and discriminatory that prisoners should overwhelmingly be the ones subjected to this risk, especially as they are likely to be in a worse position than most when it comes to defending themselves.
5. That the massive government funding of police, forensic labs and computer systems in the absence of Legal Aid funding which will enable the impoverished to access the sort of technical expertise required to defend against DNA evidence will further tilt the criminal justice system in favour of the prosecution and the wealthy.
6. Australian forensic scientists have an extremely poor record in presenting forensic evidence in court and have been responsible for a disproportionate number of wrongful convictions. They are way overdue for proper independent monitoring and oversight. This need has become urgent as forensic evidence plays a part in an ever increasing number of criminal cases.
The Queensland Parliament has recently made a proposal for new changes to legislation that will place an overriding power on the Attorney General to overrule any previous court decision and detain individuals who are deemed a ‘risk to the public’ indefinitely, despite the fact they have completed their original sentence.
The battle for your DNA
The power of genetic research on large populations is impressive, and more will be carried out on other groups isolated by geography, cultural heritage, family lineage, and as yet unimagined categories.
The value of such research is the knowledge it yields for individuals, groups and societies who can benefit from it. But knowledge can be harmful if applied carelessly, and will be worthless unless it is shared.
Sex Offences: hysteria v reality
This issue exposes the contradictions of personal behaviour, commercial interests and government responses like no other. Justice Action has for many years defended the apparently indefensible, embraced the most reviled, and feels that handling this issue properly will lead to a reconsideration of community values on punishment. The furore around Ray (Dennis) Ferguson has given us the focus.
Crime, justice, and the media have long been intertwined. This is because crime constitutes a fertile ground for news production accounting for 35% of news produced daily. It is widely accepted that ideas, images, and narratives that dominate the media have a definitive impact on public opinion.1 The power of the media is unrivalled and continues to grow through more avenues and formats today than ever before. Such technologies include the Internet, electronic games, personal digital assistant devices, and virtual reality devices, all of which contribute to an efficient ‘high-speed media world’ with significant consequences in the area of crime and justice.2 The media’s technological ability of gathering and disseminating information at a much quicker rate provides people with easy accessibility to crime-and-justice content, which shapes the public perception of crime and criminal behaviours, including methods of punishment and how authorities should act.3
See full paper “Fear: How the Media Distorts Public Policy”.
In the wake of the recent execution of underworld kingpin Pasquale Barbaro, The Daily Telegraph (16 November 2016, see below) utilised the sensationalist front-page headline “Taking out the trash” to signify his murder. Combined with the tagline “Gangland War on Sydney Streets” on a bloodstained backdrop, The Daily Telegraph effectively panders to the audience by dramatizing the gang war and the death of a criminal character to provoke extensive coverage and ultimately damage the social fabric of the community through unnecessary fear mongering.