Deceased persons

41.214 Part 1D of the Crimes Act provides for an index of unknown deceased persons on a DNA database system. This index holds DNA profiles derived from the forensic material of deceased persons whose identities are unknown.[191] The index matching table permits broad index matching with most of the other indexes in a DNA database system.[192]

41.215 Part 1D also provides a time period after which a deceased person’s profile must be removed from the database system.[193] The ‘identifying period’ for a profile derived from forensic material taken from a deceased person whose identity is known is defined as such period as the Commissioner orders the responsible person to retain that information.[194] Therefore, where an unknown deceased person is identified through a DNA database system, or by some other means, the Commissioner appears to retain a discretion as to the destruction of that information.

41.216 It is possible that DNA analysis in this context could be extended in future to include the collection of genetic samples from known deceased persons for the purpose of obtaining ‘cold hits’ on the DNA database system. For example, in the United Kingdom, the police have the power to seize a dead body or take a sample from it if there is reasonable suspicion that the deceased person may have committed an offence.[195]

41.217 There is a public interest in the resolution of outstanding offences; however, some form of regulation or oversight also may be necessary to maintain the dignity of the dead, and to protect the genetic privacy of living close relatives. As this matter has not previously been canvassed, the Inquiry does not feel it can make a recommendation at this stage.

[191]Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) s 23YDAC.

[192] Ibid s 23YDAF(1). The unknown deceased persons index can only be matched with the volunteers (limited purposes) index if it is within the purpose for which the volunteer provided his or her forensic material.

[193] However, the section is ambiguously drafted as the only use of the term ‘identifying period’ is in relation to volunteers.

[194]Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) s 23YDAG(4).

[195] Human Genetics Commission, Inside Information: Balancing Interests in the Use of Personal Genetic Data (2002), London, 147.