DNA database moves a step closer

Long-awaited legislation establishing a DNA database is expected to be passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said.

DNA database moves a step closer

Some seven years on from when the system was first proposed, the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2013 completed its committee stage yesterday.

Mr Shatter said it was an “important day” for the Oireachtas Justice Committee and said he hoped to have it through both houses of the Oireachtas before the summer break. The minister described the legislation as “ground-breaking” and said the database was a “very important tool in the fight against crime.”

Completing the bill’s amendments yesterday, he said: “This is the most important piece of legislation, I believe, that will be enacted in the lifetime of this Dáil with regard to the provision of assistance to members of An Garda Síochána in the investigation of crime and bringing individuals to the courts who have committed a crime.”

The database essentially has the ability to link crime scenes and identify suspects in unsolved crimes. The system will help gardaí identify prolific offenders, such as burglars, and assist in the investigation of serious crime, including homicide and sexual offences. The bill outlines two separate sections of the DNA database:

-An investigation division will hold profiles generated from samples taken from crime scenes, suspects and convicted offenders.

-An identification division which will comprise profiles of missing people and unknown persons.

The bill also puts a statutory framework for the taking and analysing of voluntary mass screenings.

In addition there will be an “elimination index” containing profiles of gardaí, forensic science staff and other personnel, so that samples matching them can be eliminated.

Mr Shatter said the database will help determine whether claims of a miscarriage of justice can be established. Ireland will now be linked with the rest of the EU and searches and comparisons can be checked with their databases.

The minister said now Ireland had “21st century legislation and state-of-the-art facilities” in the Forensic Science Laboratory, which will operate the database.

DNA profiles of adults can be held for up to six years, while those of children can be held for up to three years. The commissioner can apply to the courts for further retention.

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