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Kehoe, Paul

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Defence Forces (Evidence) Bill 2019

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Defence Forces (Evidence) Bill 2019\Second Stage
Bills\Defence Forces (Evidence) Bill 2019\Second Stage

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Defence Forces (Evidence) Bill 2019

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Senator


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Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe)

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Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe)

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Paul Kehoe

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Snippet Contents:

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am pleased to present this Bill to the House this evening. This is technical but important legislation which will be of major assistance to the Military Police Corps in its investigations. The Military Police Corps, a service corps within the Defence Forces headed by the provost marshal, conducts criminal investigations concerning persons subject to military law. These investigations can arise both within the State and in other jurisdictions where Defence Forces personnel are deployed overseas. The principal purpose of this Bill is to provide for members of the military police to take and use DNA samples and other evidence for the purposes of their investigations. It will provide for the establishment of a military police DNA database system, to be administered by Forensic Science Ireland, to hold DNA profiles generated from DNA samples taken from persons under this Act.
The investigative capabilities of the military police, which may need to be exercised outside the jurisdiction of the State when military personnel are on overseas service or on State ships, are currently compromised by the lack of a comprehensive statutory basis for the taking of evidential samples. This Bill will remedy this situation and will enhance the capability of the Military Police Corps to carry out its investigations of serious offences. The Bill mirrors the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014, referred to as the Act of 2014, which provides for the taking of DNA samples by An Garda Síochána and for the establishment of a DNA database system with a view to assisting An Garda Síochána in its investigation of crime. Deputies will recall that the Act of 2014 was the subject of detailed consideration during its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas. That Act, which drew on a Law Reform Commission report from 2005 on the establishment of a DNA database, strikes a careful balance between ensuring there is an effective statutory basis for the operation of a DNA database system along with the need to take account of the rights of individuals whose DNA profiles are placed on the database.
This Bill closely follows the provisions outlined in the Act of 2014 but with adaptations, where required, to take account of the military environment. For example, there was no requirement in this Bill to include the detailed provisions in the Act of 2014 relating to the taking of samples from child suspects. However, the safeguards provided for in the Act of 2014 regarding the taking of samples from persons have been incorporated in this Bill. The Bill also includes some consequential amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014, the Defence Act 1954 and the Courts-Martial Appeals Act 1983, arising from the provisions of this Bill. The military police will be responsible for the collection of evidence as provided for in this Bill, including samples from which DNA profiles may be generated. The relevant personnel performing these duties will have completed the same course of training as undertaken by Garda Síochána crime scene investigators who perform similar duties.
I now come to the detailed provisions of the Bill. The Bill is divided into 12 parts. Part 1, the preliminary and general part, includes standard provisions relating to the Short Title, sets out the necessary definitions and deals with the application of the Bill to persons subject to military law. In this regard, section 3 of the Bill provides that the application of the Bill to a person subject to military law shall not be affected if any such person is for the time being outside the State or on board a ship or aircraft. This is to clarify that the provisions of the Bill apply to military personnel serving overseas. Similar wording is included in the Defence Act 1954. This Part also includes a number of supplementary provisions relating to the taking of samples and the generation of DNA profiles. Section 5 of the Bill provides for the making of orders and regulations under the Bill.
Part 2 deals with the taking of samples from persons in the custody of the military police for entry onto the military police DNA database system, as well as the taking of intimate and non-intimate samples from such persons. Any samples taken under this Part may only be taken in connection with the investigation of a relevant offence. For the purposes of this Bill, this means an offence for which a person subject to military law may be punished by imprisonment for a term of five years or more, for example for serious assault or murder. Accordingly, I envisage that the powers arising under this Part of the Bill will only be exercised by the military police relatively infrequently. A sample taken under section 9 of the Bill will be for the purpose of generating a DNA profile, in respect of a person from whom the sample was taken, to be entered on the military police DNA database system. It will not be used for evidential purposes.
Section 10 provides for the taking of an intimate sample, while section 11 provides for the taking of a non-intimate sample. The results of the forensic testing of a sample taken under these sections, and a DNA profile generated from any such sample, may be used in court-martial proceedings. The definitions of an "intimate sample" and "non-intimate sample" mirror the equivalent definitions in the Act of 2014. Provision is also made in this Part for the retaking of samples in certain circumstances. This scenario might arise, for example, where the original sample proves to be insufficient or is inadequately labelled. I also wish to draw attention to certain other provisions in this Part regarding the taking of intimate samples. Section 12 specifies the persons who are authorised to take intimate samples, for example medical practitioners or nurses in the case of blood samples or a dentist or medical practitioner in the case of a dental impression. The section also provides that, with the exception of a sample of blood or a dental impression, an intimate sample shall, insofar as practicable, only be taken by a person who is of the same sex as the person from whom the sample is being taken.