The Queensland Government today announced that $95 million had been earmarked as a first step in fixing the myriad serious failures exposed by the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing.
Inquiry Commissioner Walter Sofronoff KC yesterday delivered a damning 506-page final report on “serious” failures in the management and operation of the state-run crime laboratory.
The report recommended a complete restructure of the state’s Forensic and Scientific Services, including Queensland Health’s appointment of an accomplished DNA scientific specialist to lead the many required changes.
Today, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that the Government would take both immediate and longer-term steps to address the recommendations handed down by Commissioner Sofronoff.
Ms Palaszczuk, in a statement this afternoon, said the commissioner’s recommendations would be utilised as a “roadmap” to deliver the necessary improvements.
“I promised Queenslanders we would get to the bottom of issues surrounding DNA testing in Queensland when I announced the Commission of Inquiry in June,” she said. “This inquiry has now done that, and the Commissioner’s recommendations will be our roadmap to deliver the necessary improvements.”
She said the Government would accept all of the 123 recommendations.
“The Government will implement several interim measures immediately, including establishing Forensic Science Queensland with an independent Board of Management and a Forensic DNA Science Advisory Sub-Committee to provide independent, expert oversight and ensure scientific integrity,” she said. “It will be established in January.
“The Board will report jointly and directly to the Health Minister and the Attorney-General, so as to make it clear this service is a fundamental part of our justice system.
“In the longer-term, we will look to establish a Queensland forensic agency under the Justice and Attorney-General portfolio, in line with its fundamental role contributing to the integrity of the justice system.
The Health Minister and the Attorney-General will provide an update on our implementation in early 2023.”
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said in the same statement that the board and sub-committee would be staffed by eminent professionals in their field and ensure a better model for delivering forensic scientific services in Queensland.
“We recognise the urgent leadership and cultural issues raised in both the interim and final reports and these issues will receive immediate attention,” Ms D’Ath said. “I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Linzi Wilson-Wilde OAM as interim CEO of Forensic Science Queensland.
“We will also appoint a Board of Management Chair as well as a Chief Operations Officer.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said victim/survivors would remain at the centre of the Government’s reforms.
“We’re committing $10 million over four years for victim support services to meet any increased demand for trauma counselling,” she said.
“We will also be providing $3.8 million to the Director of Public Prosecutions to assess witness statements and manage cases in a timely manner.
“These measures will help restore confidence and rebuild trust in the forensic testing process and the broader criminal justice system.”