Europe

DNA database to become operational in Republic of Ireland

Children are tested for DNA by the police every 10 minutes says the Howard League for Penal Reform
Image caption The minister said the database would also help establish the innocence of persons suspected or wrongly convicted of offences

The Irish justice minister has published legislation to introduce a national DNA database in the Republic of Ireland.

Work to prepare the legislation has been under way for two years and Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he expects the database to be operational in 2014.

He said the key aim of the bill was to assist police in tackling crime.

Mr Shatter said it would help link crimes and identify suspects.

"The intelligence generated will be invaluable to the GardaĆ­ in relation to identifying prolific offenders involved in volume crime such as burglary, but also in relation to serious offences against the person, such as homicide and sexual offences," he said.

"It will contribute to the move towards more effective, targeted and smarter policing and will also facilitate co-operation with other police forces in relation to mobile criminals."

The minister insisted the database would also be of benefit in establishing the innocence of persons suspected or wrongly convicted of offences.

Mr Shatter said "substantial changes" had been made to the bill put forward by the previous government in 2010.

Safeguards

"The bill published today is substantially amended in many respects to address issues that gave rise to genuine concerns, including in relation to the sensitive area of the retention of samples and DNA profiles of persons who are not subsequently convicted in order to ensure that any interference with their privacy rights is justified by the public interest in the investigation of crime and is proportionate," he said.

The bill provides for the taking, subject to appropriate safeguards, of biological samples in the form of mouth swabs or hair follicles from suspects and convicted persons including sex offenders from which their DNA profiles will be generated for entry in the database.

Crime scene profiles from unsolved crimes whether occurring before or after the new legislation becomes law will also be entered in the database.

The database will be established and operated by the Forensic Science Laboratory of the Department of Justice and Equality at its current location at Garda headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

The minister said he was "determined" to ensure the DNA database would be operational as soon as the legislation was enacted.

"To make this happen, the Forensic Science Laboratory has been furnished with resources for the necessary specialist staff, and to allow for the purchase, installation and validation of sophisticated robotic sample handling instruments to cater for high throughput of samples," he said.

"These are now in use and will be capable of processing the anticipated increased submissions associated with a national database."

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