Canada top court says no warrant needed for penile swabs from suspects

Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:30am EDT
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that police do not need a warrant to collect DNA from a male suspect's genitals, potentially making it easier for authorities to secure sexual assault convictions.

The country's top court ruled police may perform penile swabs on an arrested person if they believe it will reveal and preserve relevant evidence and if done in a "reasonable manner."

Police have greater search powers when dealing with people who are arrested, and a penile swab, which seeks a complainant's DNA and not the suspect's, would be a reasonable part of that, the court ruled.

The court ruled against a man from the western province of Alberta whose sexual assault conviction was based on DNA evidence from a penile swab done without a warrant.

Ali Hassan Saeed was accused of sexually assaulting a female acquaintance in 2011. While in custody, he was asked by a police officer to "wipe his own penis with a swab while the officer watched," according to the Supreme Court.

After his conviction, Ali unsuccessfully raised the issue to a provincial court of appeal.

The Supreme Court ruled that while the swab violated his privacy, it was not done in a humiliating way and did not "fundamentally violate his human dignity."

(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Alan Crosby)