Untrained gardaí taking DNA samples

Around a quarter of gardaí surveyed are taking DNA samples without being properly trained — with many depending on a “how to” Garda video, an internal Garda inspection has found.

Untrained gardaí taking DNA samples

Around a quarter of gardaí surveyed are taking DNA samples without being properly trained — with many depending on a “how to” Garda video, an internal Garda inspection has found.

The Garda Professional Standards Unit (GPSU) said there was a “lack of oversight and governance” regarding the sending of DNA samples by gardaí for forensic analysis.

It said the lack of staff at the Garda DNA co- ordination unit was an organisational concern that required “urgent attention”.

The GPSU Annual Report for 2018 also revealed concerns in some districts at the investigation of assaults, sexual assaults and domestic violence.

The unit said it conducted a review of DNA samples sent to the Garda National Forensic Co-ordination Office (NFCO) during September 2016 and May 2018.

In addition, the unit visited 12 operational divisions. The review found:

  • Only 55% of Garda members interviewed said they had received some form of training in relation to the taking, submission, retention and destruction of DNA;
  • But 81% of members indicated they were taking DNA samples and that some members say they used “a ‘How To’ video guide” on the Garda internet service to assist them;
  • Only 67% of DNA samples authorised and taken during detentions were recorded on custody records;
  • 92% of reports matching a profile to a crime were acted on by gardaí. The GPSU said there is “a lack of oversight and governance” in relation to the submission of samples to Forensic Science Ireland.

It said: “Specifically, the lack of appropriate staffing levels at NFCO is an organisational concern that needs urgent attention.”

A separate review on presumptive drug testing — where gardaí can themselves test drugs where the offence is simple possession — found it was not being accepted by judges in certain areas.

A review in Kilkenny/Carlow Division said there is “particular concern” related to assault files from one district and that in one incident, an investigation file was submitted for directions “over two years” after the event.

On domestic violence, it said it was “not evident” in some instances that the injured party was given information on domestic violence orders or support services.

It said storage units were “full to capacity”, representing a risk regarding the storage of cash, firearms and drugs, and that the armoury was used to store drugs.

It said the majority of sexual incidents were dealt with appropriately but found a delay in the submission of a number of files and while reminders were issued, the cases were not escalated.

A review in Dublin Northern Region found some concerns surrounding sex crime investigations.A review in the Wexford Division said that while there was good oversight of criminal investigation files, there was one case where law officers indicated that “vital witness statements and medical evidence” were not in the file.

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