DNA database links 530 crimes to suspects

The DNA database has linked more than 530 crimes to particular individuals in its first year of operation, official figures show.

The crimes include 359 burglaries, 55 criminal damage cases, and five sexual assaults.

The DNA database is operated by Forensic Science Ireland (FSI). It was launched last November after being promised by successive governments for eight years.

Statistics show that, since the database started: n DNA samples have been taken from about 8,000 people; n This includes samples from 1,107 incarcerated criminals; n Samples from 775 people on the sex offenders’ register; n 532 unsolved crimes have been linked to individuals.

In addition to the 532 crimes, the database has also identified 95 DNA samples taken from crime scenes which have been linked to other crimes.

This means the same individual, though not yet identified, may have carried out multiple crimes in the same area, providing important intelligence to investigators. Examples include one individual who has been linked to 13 burglaries, while another person has been connected to seven burglaries.

Commenting to the Irish Examiner, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said: “I am pleased that the DNA database has delivered considerable successes in the first year of operation.

“We are already reaping the rewards in terms of catching previously unknown perpetrators, linking crimes together and matching crime scenes to unknown perpetrators.

“Of particular note is the linking of 532 cases with individuals and linking several crimes together.”

Sheila Willis, director of FSI, said: “I am pleased to see the impact the national DNA database has had after only one year.”

Dr Willis paid tribute to the FSI team, led by DNA director Geraldine O’Donnell.

“Geraldine has transformed a complex piece of legislation into a successful operational system,” she said. “The database has already provided significant intelligence to An Garda Síochána within its first 12 months and continues to do so.”

The database, which has been described by governments since 2007 as a key modern investigative tool, only became a reality last November with the enactment by Ms Fitzgerald of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act.

FSI has compared the database to a “computer bank” containing records of DNA profiles from two sources: DNA samples from crime scenes and DNA samples from individuals.

When a profile is taken from a crime scene, it is searched against profiles from other crime scenes. If there is a match, it could indicate a link between a number of crimes. The profile is also searched against DNA profiles of individuals and could provide a hit, linking a crime to a person.

Similarly, samples taken from individuals (people arrested for a serious crime, prisoners, or sex offenders) are searched against crime scene profiles. A match could indicate the person is linked to a crime or crimes. Any such hits are sent back to gardaí for further investigation.

The database is housed within the offices of the FSI, formerly known as the Forensic Science Laboratory, located on the grounds of Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

The poor facilities have been condemned over the years. After objections from Dr Willis, Ms Fitzgerald succeeded in getting cabinet approval to bring forward the construction start date on a new modern FSI facility from 2019 to 2017.


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