DNA test for land rights

Friday May 03, 2019 Written by Published in National
DNA test for land rights

DNA testing to prove and identify the lineage of a person in regards to land ownership has been brought before the Cook Islands High Court for the first time.

The landmark case which was heard on Wednesday involved an application filed by Mary Samuela. The application was to include her as being one of the deceased child on the land belonging to late Rongorangi Tetupuariki Brown. 

At a Land Court hearing, lawyer Tina Browne, who represented the Samuela family, confirmed the DNA results to determine the land rights were received on April 27.

Judge Wilson Isaac in reading out the DNA results said it supports that Samuela and James Jackson Brown, who is the biological son of Rongorangi, are 460 times more likely to be half siblings.

Respondent Douglas Tetupuariki Bayley, who represented himself, objected to the application made by Samuela. Bayley is the first cousin of late Rongorangi.

Bayley said: “This is a landmark application that is intended to allow DNA testing to give entitlement to succession to native freehold lands.

“It is my understanding that the present Cook Islands law does not support DNA testing to give entitlement to succession to native freehold lands, therefore I question whether such a case as this, is in line with the sovereign laws of our country.”

He said there were no proper procedures put in place by the court to give strict guidelines in the procurement of DNA sampling according to Cook Islands laws.

Bayley questioned the authenticity of the DNA sample obtained by the applicant and the methods used to obtain it.

“This (sample) has been kept for 10 years. I’d like to know where exactly was the sample kept and how it was stored.”

Bayley said: “The reason behind the DNA testing is due to Samuela claiming to be the half-sister of James Jackson Kautai Brown; Rongorangi Brown is my first cousin.”

Bayley, called on his witness Rea Kautai, however he was not present at court.

He said he was concerned with the DNA testing report which is part of the Samuela’s evidence.

“This is not accompanied by any witness statements of James’ signature to confirm the origin of the material. This is civil land court not a criminal trial hence it is important to have an evidence trail to indicate to the court every step of the process was professionally managed.

“Where has this material (for DNA testing) been kept since 2009?”

Bayley said to make this legal, signatures on the test report of all the people involved and their qualifications was needed.

“There are too many events in this chain that have not been signed off which would prove the legality of this test report.”

Bayley asked the court for an adjournment if the case was going to go any further.

“The DNA needs to be tested through a warrant of the court to ensure no fraud is carried out and no miscarriage of justice occurs.”

However judge Isaac reserved his decision on the matter. He will complete his report and forward the results and information on to Chief Justice Hugh Williams for further deliberation.

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