Mass DNA test in NSW

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Mass DNA test in NSW

BY SEAN HEALY

SYDNEY — Civil libertarians expressed horror at the mass screening of DNA samples from men in the north-west New South Wales town of Wee Waa. It is the first mass screening in Australia.

Police hope the "voluntary" screening of 600 men will allow them to catch the man who sexually assaulted a 93-year-old woman in 1999.

Michael Antrum, chairperson of the NSW Law Society's human rights committee, said at an April 6 media conference organised by civil liberties groups that the Wee Waa screening was a "frightening glimpse of a future police state in NSW". The NSW Council for Civil Liberties' Kevin O'Rourke said the testing was a public relations exercise by the government to win sympathy for its plans to introduce a state-wide DNA database and hand police new powers to take samples from suspects and prisoners.

In Britain, the government already holds the DNA samples of 650,000 citizens and has conducted 144 "voluntary" mass screenings. Despite promises that the information collected from the screenings would be destroyed, British home secretary Jack Straw in July announced plans to keep all the information for future use.