Probe finds 4,500 cases of ‘problematic’ DNA samples

Probe finds 4,500 cases of ‘problematic’ DNA samples
Drew Harris: Ordered the probe.

A high-level garda investigation has identified almost 4,500 cases where problems have been found in how DNA samples of criminals and suspects were handled.

Garda chiefs are concentrating on over 500 of these and disciplinary action may be taken against gardaí in cases where they were “totally neglectful” in how they acted in the taking of DNA samples.

The investigation was ordered by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris after media reports emerged in April 2019 that up to 2,000 DNA samples taken from criminals or suspects had apparently gone missing — and had not been added to the National DNA Database.

Concerns were expressed at the time regarding any failure to submit DNA samples for testing by Forensic Science Ireland and the potentially serious impact that could have on investigations and even prosecutions.

Speaking at a public meeting of the Policing Authority, Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, head of Special Crime Operations, gave details on his investigation:

  •  46,179 samples were examined between November 20, 2015 and April 3, 2019;

  • 4,446 of these were deemed “problematic”;

  • 521 samples were being concentrated on. He said they were working with the FSI on the 521 cases to “get to the bottom” of them.

    Probe finds 4,500 cases of ‘problematic’ DNA samples

    “There will be cases that will be problematic,” AC O’Driscoll told authority chairman Bob Collins.

    He said that a total of 70,000 samples had been taken to date and that “discipline may well arise” in those cases where gardaí have been “totally neglectful” in the way they dealt with the provisions of the act and the DNA sample that they took.

    AC O’Driscoll said a “substantial amount of remedying” had taken place to ensure, or to attempt to ensure, that they won’t have “problems into the future of the nature we’ve had in the past”.

    He told Mr Collins, who took this first public meeting as authority chair, that a full report should be finalised within the next six weeks.

    No details were given on the nature or seriousness of the problems, but reports last year suggested it could include cases where gardaí failed to use the appropriate DNA kits or where samples were not returned or were returned incorrectly.

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