dna-giphyThe Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act  1995 established the DNA Profile Databank. New Zealand was only the second country in the world to create a DNA profile databank.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) operates the  DNA Profile Databank on behalf of Police. The Databank contains DNA profiles of people convicted of certain criminal offences that are punishable by imprisonment. In most cases these profiles are kept on the Databank forever.

The Databank also contains the DNA profiles of people aged 17 years or over who have agreed to have their profile stored on the Databank.1 In this situation, the person’s DNA profile stays on the databank until/if the person asks for Police to remove their profile.

Since 1995 the Databank has grown steadily.  There are now about 189,000 profiles from individual people on the Databank.

On behalf of Police, ESR also maintains a Temporary Databank of some DNA profiles. These are DNA profiles produced from DNA samples (see “DNA samples and DNA profiles”) obtained by a police constable from someone they have arrested or intend to charge with an imprisonable offence.2 The law says the DNA profiles produced from these DNA samples can be held on the Temporary Databank. If the person, whose DNA sample is obtained, goes on to be convicted of the offence for which they were arrested (or a related offence), then the DNA profile will be transferred from the Temporary Databank to the DNA Profile Databank.3

There is a further databank that is maintained by ESR – the “Crime Sample Databank”. When unknown DNA is found at a crime scene (that does not belong to the victim, nor to other people eliminated from the investigation), then ESR may choose to upload the DNA profile produced from that unknown crime scene DNA sample to the Crime Sample Databank.

By comparing the profiles in the Crime Sample Databank against the DNA Profile Databank and the Temporary Databank possible suspects can be identified. ESR’s statistics reveal that nearly 70% of all unsolved crime profiles loaded to the Crime Sample Databank result in a link to a profile held on either the  DNA Profile Databank or Temporary Databank. These links produce valuable leads for unsolved cases.

Crimes can also be linked together. Nearly a third of all crime sample profiles loaded to the Crime Sample Databank link to another profile on the Crime Sample Databank.

There are currently around 40,000 crime scene sample profiles in the Crime Sample Databank.

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  1. Under Part 3 of the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 – a “databank request.” (For more information see “When Police can obtain DNA samples” and “How long Police can keep DNA samples and DNA profiles“).
  2. That is, an offence for which the person can be punished by a term of imprisonment. Although the law says police officers can obtain a DNA sample from anyone who is aged 17 years or over who has committed an imprisonable offence, in practice police officers tend to obtain DNA samples from people who have committed more serious offences, or from people who have already been convicted of committing an offence. Police can obtain samples from young persons aged between 14 and 16 years, but only if they are arrested for a “relevant offence” (this mostly includes more serious sexual or violent offences, but also some other offences such indecent acts, possessing weapons, and peeping and peering).
  3. These DNA samples obtained on arrest or intent to charge are authorised under part 2B of the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995. Part 2B was added to the Act in 2009. This Part also added the Temporary Databank.