16 November 2015

New DNA database another tool for Gardaí to tackle crime

Frances Fitzgerald, Local TD and Minister for Justice, has announced the commencement of DNA legislation and launch of a new state-of-the-art DNA Database System. The database will become operational on 20 November 2015 and is another important tool that Gardaí can use to tackle crime.

Welcoming the introduction of such a system for the first time in this jurisdiction Fitzgerald said “the new DNA database, which will be based in the Phoenix Park, will offer Gardaí the most modern technology available in the fight against crime. This high quality intelligence tool will be especially invaluable in the fight against ‘volume crime’, such as burglary and theft, and also in the investigation of serious offences against the person.

“The database will also assist in finding and identifying missing or unknown persons. This will provide significant assistance and reassurance for families in these situations.

“The launch of the new database follows the recent publication of legislation to tackle repeat home burglars and announcement of the extra resources to be devoted to confronting this scourge under Operation Thor. Garda figures show that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars, and I want to draw particular attention to the role that DNA analysis can play in tackling this kind of ‘volume crime’. The new system will help the Gardaí to close the net on these serial offenders. The database will be populated with unidentified DNA profiles from crime scenes – these ‘cold case’ profiles can then be matched with DNA profiles uploaded from individuals under criminal investigation, convicted criminals and former offenders, with a view to solving these crimes and securing convictions.

Highlighting the work undertaken to ensure the necessary practical and technical readiness to operate the database, Fitzgerald said: “I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the very important, largely unseen work of Forensic Science Ireland, headed up by Dr Sheila Willis. FSI already routinely does DNA testing for the Garda Síochána and has established sophisticated scientific expertise in this area, making it ideally suited to be custodians of this national DNA database. I should also commend the Garda Síochána and Commissioner Noírín O’Sullivan for the preparatory work they have undertaken, including training of individual members and the establishment of a new Forensics Coordination Office.”

An additional sum of €1.3m was allocated to FSI in the recent Budget to meet ongoing staffing needs and the new demands that will be placed on it by the operation of the DNA Database, and the recruitment of additional staff will begin immediately. Funding was also allocated in the recently announced capital expenditure programme to the construction of a purpose-built new laboratory, a project previously cancelled in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis, with building due to commence in 2019.

It is no secret that a new forensic science laboratory is long-overdue, and I am glad that funding has now been allocated for the construction of state-of-the-art facilities appropriate to Ireland’s needs. Any opportunity to being forward the start date of construction will be taken.”
The DNA database was provided for in the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act, which was enacted last year having received broad support in both Houses of the Oireachtas. This comprehensive piece of legislation provided for the establishment, population, management and oversight of the DNA database and reformed the law governing the taking of samples and the creation of DNA profiles for use in evidence in criminal trials. In addition to its value as an investigatory tool, the database will also contribute towards more effective, targeted policing as Garda resources can be focused on cases involving clear corroborative evidence, with innocent suspects being eliminated from consideration, allowing for more efficient use of policing time.

The establishment of a DNA database was a commitment in the Programme for Government and I am pleased to see this initiative now being realised. I know that Forensic Science Ireland and the Garda Síochána have been awaiting the introduction of this new technological development for a long time. Finally bringing this initiative to fruition further demonstrates the Government’s strong determination to tackle crime and to assist the Garda Síochána in protecting the communities they serve.”