MP Hone Harawira takes issue with Police tactics when collecting DNA

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MP Hone Harawira is saying to young Maori to know their rights when it comes to DNA samples being taken from rangatahi by the Police and to be aware that Police could use any method, legal or otherwise, to secure DNA.

From July, young people aged between 14 and 17 can be required to give a sample, but under strict conditions, including having a parent or guardian present, and when charges for specified offences are imminent.
  • Samples must be given willingly
  • Any sample taken because of an inducement must be destroyed

At present, police can only take voluntary samples from those under 17 to compare directly against DNA found at a crime scene.

Police say that they and the forensic science service have systems in place to identify samples taken in error from those under 17, which are then destroyed.

They say police instructions make it clear samples must be given willingly, and that they’re rendered invalid if any inducements have been made.

Mr Harawira says he’s heard of cases where teenagers have been asked to give a sample so they can be identified if they go missing or die, or because their relatives are likely to be criminal.

In an interesting twist, mainstream media have focused on comments by Mr Harawira, who charged that current Police practices are “Nazi-like” when taking DNA from young people, in that young Maori are being coerced to give DNA without parental supervision, kaumatua supervision or respect for the voluntary nature of any request.

TangataWhenua.com agrees that rangatahi MUST be informed of their rights and if the police are not going to do this, then parents, kaumatua and Maori leaders must do so.

In Rotorua, we’ve already seen far too many instances of police taking photographs of our rangatahi without parental consent. So it’s not hard to believe that the tactics used to collect DNA might be equally questionable.

Police Minister Judith Collins and Police Commissioner Howard Broad told Radio New Zealand this morning the law was clear and people should simply stick to it.

I would suggest that people do comply with the law around DNA samples and not break the law based on what an MP happens to have said,” Ms Collins said. “I am very sorry that any comment has been made around so-called Nazi-style behaviour – that is not New Zealand police.”

Clearly Ms Collins has missed the point, complying with the law is one thing, not complying when it is your right too and being induced into giving a DNA sample when it is your right NOT to are completely other matters. These are the issues that Mr Harawira is referring to and it is hoped that Ms Collins is not sanctioning this type of police behaviour.

Mr Broad says police operate within strict guidelines and if they MP is worried about how police are collecting DNA he should raise it with them directly, and lay a formal complaint. So whanau, if your rangatahi (nieces, nephews, sons, daughters) tell you of something like this get in touch with the police but also consider including one of several elected members of Parliament, so we can ensure that our young people are not being taken advantage of.

Hone’s approach should be supported, by using the media, he is informing the public about the upcoming change and ensuring that the korero about rights and justice is begins to take place.

Have you had any personal experience with this? Korero mai Te Whanau.

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