Justice Minister Herbert Volney has described the position taken by Independent senators Helen Drayton and Corinne McKnight and columnist Judy Raymond on the DNA bill as a "strictly feminist posture", which was "totally unacceptable". "They are far removed from the reality of what happens," he said in a telephone interview.
However, he said Government was prepared to compromise on the main provision which they have found offensive—that a rape victim must give a DNA sample whether they consent to it or not. "On reflection, I do not think there was a need for that (provision), he said, conceding that he did not think there was such a provision in United States legislation.
In the Senate on Tuesday, both Drayton and McKnight took issue with aspects of the DNA bill, including the provision which compels victims of rape to give a sample. Raymond had also criticised this provision in her Sunday Express column.
Yesterday, Volney was asked whether Government decided to adjourn debate on the bill till next Tuesday, in order to make amendments after realising it would not get the support of the Independent senators. Government needs the support of four Independent senators to pass the bill, which requires a three-fifths majority.
He replied that only three Independent senators had spoken thus far, and two of them "as expected were particularly adverse". He said the Government had an idea what it was prepared to give way to without affecting the integrity of the bill. He said the Government adjourned the sitting to next Tuesday in order to consider what was said.
"But there are certain areas where there can be a little compromise. For example, we will look at compromising on the taking of DNA samples by force from a woman who has been a rape victim. We can compromise on that. As it stands now, they (rape victims) give DNA. It has never been a problem because the women are so angry, they just want justice, and even in their trauma, they co-operate. The women have always allowed the examination, which involves the swabbing of the private parts, which is no more than what the bill says is required," Volney said.
"It is just a straight feminist posture which has been taken by these women in the Senate and by your colleague, Judy Raymond. I can tell you that in my experience over the years, women have never failed to co-operate with taking the exam when they have been raped, even in their traumatic condition. So that Judy Raymond and them are far removed from the reality.... It is strictly feminist and it is a totally unacceptable posture they are adopting and creating scepticism," he said. He added, however, he did agree that if a rape victim did not want to give the sample, she should not be forced to. "That I would concede on," he said.
Volney said he was also prepared to concede on the relationship between the minister and the custodian of the DNA samples, in terms of the appointment.
Volney said there was no compromising on the provision requiring members of the Protective Service and Defence Force to give DNA samples for the national database. "You want to know who these people are, and if they are involved in crime, they can be detected, charged and weeded out of the Protective Service and Defence Force. What is the mystery in that? The population should be happy that we have clean people (in law enforcement)," he said.
He said the opposition to the Bill was just "pure, cheap politics", and he expected, at the end of the day, that "good reason would prevail in the Senate". "Because what is the option, that we have no DNA legislation?"
Volney said he was not compromising on the issue of retroactivity since it was in the last Act. He said the offences being created will only become offences when they occur after the Act is passed and implemented. He said the Act would facilitiate evidence becoming available for old crimes. "What is the problem with this? It just saves the opportunity to get at people who commit ted crimes years ago. There is no devil in this legislation. It is just hysterical (Opposition)...and the Opposition are the ones making a big issue. Half of these provisions were in the old Act. It is not to say we are re-inventing the wheel. We are just using all the facilities, the persons, the database that were already there and making it more effective," he said. • See Page 18