$95 million in immediate measures to address Forensic DNA Commission of Inquiry findings
Published Thursday, 15 December, 2022 at 01:21 PM
Premier and Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman
The Queensland Government will provide an initial investment of more than $95 million to establish a new framework to drive significant reforms to DNA and forensic services as part of its response to recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced the government would take both immediate and longer-term steps to address the recommendations handed down by Commissioner Walter Sofronoff KC in his final report this week.
In announcing immediate measures, the Premier said it was imperative Queenslander’s faith in the state’s forensic and scientific services was restored.
“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,” the Premier said.
“This inquiry has now done that, and the Commissioner’s recommendations will be our roadmap to deliver the necessary improvements.
“We accept all 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. 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.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said the Board and Sub-Committee would be staffed by eminent professionals in their field to ensure a better model for the delivery of 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,” Minister 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.
“These appointments will be critical in leading the important work to restore confidence in forensic DNA services in Queensland.
“Queensland Health is also in discussions with several eminent national and international forensics experts about joining the Forensic DNA Science Advisory Sub-Committee.
“I also acknowledge the inquiry findings against some Queensland Health staff members and matters have been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.”
Minister D’Ath said the work of the Commission and the government’s response would be critical in implementing lasting reforms to rebuild trust in the state’s DNA and forensic services and ensure they operate to the highest standard.
“The learnings from the Commission of Inquiry provide a valuable opportunity for Queensland to emerge, following a period of reform and additional investment, as a world leader in forensic DNA science development and service delivery,” she said.
Minister D’Ath also thanked the nine courageous public service officers who spoke up about these matters, providing detailed information to the Commission of Inquiry at great personal risk to their own health and careers.
“I would personally like to thank these current and former staff members who showed an incredible amount of honesty and courage during this process,” Minister D’Ath said.
“It is not acceptable they felt silenced in their workplace, but I am grateful they stood up and under very difficult circumstances, took an incredible risk in order to benefit the people of Queensland.”
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said victim-survivors 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.
“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,” the Minister said.
Taskforces within Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health were established to address and implement the recommendations from the interim and final reports and will continue to action report findings and identify opportunities for improvement.
All three of the recommendations that were handed down in the interim report were accepted in full and implementation is underway.
A taskforce of police investigators is also continuing to review evidentiary samples for further testing in serious crime cases.
It is acknowledged that this will be a challenging time for Queenslanders affected by these matters. Any person who requires support, including concerned victims, can contact the Queensland Police Service hotline on 1300 993 191.
Support is also available via the DV Connect Sexual Assault Helpline (1800 010 120).
To read the report - https://www.dnainquiry.qld.gov.au/
Chris Taylor (Premier) 0473 336 110
Cullen Robinson (Minister D’Ath) 0418 170 474