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DNA inquiry delivers scathing report

The final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland yesterday made damning findings of “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.

Inquiry Commissioner and respected former Court of Appeal President Walter Sofronoff KC made 123 recommendations in his 506-page final report, published late yesterday.

“I have found that serious problems have existed within the laboratory for many years, some of them amounting to grave maladministration involving dishonesty,” Mr Sofronoff says in the report’s foreword.

“It is important that those who read this report know that these problems at the laboratory would never have been uncovered but for the persistence of certain determined individuals. Some of these people showed real courage in maintaining their demands for scientific integrity at personal risk to their health and careers.”

Mr Sofronoff said the inquiry received “hundreds of thousands pages of documents” and myriad other submissions and statements.

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“All of these were assembled into a coherent form that could be studied,” he said. “Our witnesses and our experts taught us what we needed to know.

“The quality of the information given to the Commission by lay witnesses and experts can be inferred from the fact that very little of the evidence was challenged and almost none of the scientific evidence was disputed or even questioned.

“Like the chapters of my report, the documents containing potential adverse findings against individuals were not the result of a single person’s efforts. In each case they were the result of the work of several lawyers of the Commission and, in every single case, the final version of the document was the result of my own work.

“I have the unfortunate duty to report that the methods, systems and processes used at the forensic DNA laboratory do not, in many ways, measure up to best practice.

“The laboratory has, for some time, focused on throughput and quick reporting of results to the detriment of high-quality science. That scourge has invaded many areas of the laboratory’s practices: the validation of processes and equipment for use, the dedication of scientists’ time to a proper review of cases, and the lack of resources for research, development and innovation.

“The laboratory has not been able to keep pace with this quickly developing science, and has, in some cases, failed to produce quality results. The failings are serious.

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“The laboratory serves the criminal justice system. I do not doubt that the failure to obtain all of the evidence available from samples has affected some cases.

“In most cases that will have reduced the prospects of conviction by a failure to obtain evidence which could support a complaint. It is possible, but unlikely that the failures could have resulted in a wrong conviction.”

Read the report.

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One Response

  1. Dr Kirsty Wright should be a candidate for Queensland Health’s appointment of an accomplished DNA scientific specialist .

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