(NZ) Police get new powers to take DNA

Police will have wider powers to take DNA samples, under a law passed by Parliament today in the face of strong opposition from the Green Party.

The provisions of the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill will be introduced in stages.

The first stage allows police to take samples from people charged with a range of serious offences, wider than the present category.

The second stage, to take effect in 2011, will allow police to take DNA samples from anyone they intend charging with an imprisonable offence.

Police won't need to gain consent and they will be able to take samples without judicial approval.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the bill would bring extraordinary powers to police, who could use "assault" to obtain a bodily sample when there was only an intent to charge.

Ms Turei said there was an element of racism in the justice system and Maori would be more likely to suffer under the legislation.

Labour supported the bill, but said there were concerns about how it would be implemented.

Labour MP Moana Mackey said it was vital that extra funding was made available for DNA testing through crown research institute ESR.

National Party MP Paul Quinn said the party was comfortable safeguards were in place to ensure the bill could be safely enacted.

The DNA powers were a National Party election promise and the bill was given its first reading in February.

At that time, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson issued a report saying the bill appeared to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act's provisions against unreasonable search and seizure.

During the third reading debate Labour MPs said they were worried about the extent of the powers that were being given to the police and MP Charles Chauvel tried to amend the bill so a judicial warrant would be needed.

The amendment was voted down and the bill was passed into law on a vote of 108 to 13, with the Greens and Maori Party opposing.