Forensic Services Queensland restoring confidence in the criminal justice system
Published Monday, 18 September, 2023 at 02:15 PM
Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman
- Significant progress has been made on the delivery of recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland.
- More than 70 per cent of the independent inquiry’s recommendations are either underway or completed.
- Over $190 million has now been committed to deliver world class forensic services.
The Queensland Government has made significant inroads into reforming its forensic DNA testing services, with an additional $94.5 million announced today to continue this important reform.
The first progress report, tabled in parliament today, outlines work done in response to the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland, conducted by Walter Sofronoff KC.
The inquiry’s final report, delivered in December 2022, highlighted flawed forensic DNA testing procedures and their impacts on the criminal justice system.
The government accepted all 123 recommendations made in the report, and made an immediate initial investment of more than $100 million to support implementation.
To date, 33 have been completed, and a further 57 recommendations are currently underway.
Progress includes ceasing the practice of using any quantitation threshold that stopped further processing of DNA samples, the establishment of Forensic Services Queensland supported by an interim advisory board and expert sub committees, as well as the development of quality, innovation and biology leadership to drive reform of process and practice.
The remaining recommendations focus on long-term reform and are dependent on legislative reform and progress of other recommendations. This includes renewing forensic science infrastructure; enhancing information technology platforms; managing current criminal justice system impacts; and strengthening the quality and scientific integrity of forensic services.
A large-scale recruitment drive is also underway to source scientists to staff FSQ and help implement recommendations relating to scientific processes. 27 scientists have been employed to date, with this new investment allowing the recruitment of the scientists and support required to continue implementation of the recommendations.
Any person affected by these matters, including concerned victims, who would like to access support can contact the Queensland Police Service hotline on 1300 993 191.
The progress report can be viewed at https://documents.parliament.qld.gov.au/tp/2023/5723T1357-716B.pdf
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman:
“It is paramount that Queenslanders have confidence in our justice system.
“The newly established Forensic Services Queensland headed by eminent scientist Professor Wilson-Wilde, is putting in place appropriate structures to deliver what we want in a forensic DNA service – integrity, transparency, accountability and quality.
“I am grateful for everyone who has been working incredibly hard under challenging circumstances to continue providing services that are critical to the health and justice systems.
“Victims of crime can be assured that addressing the issues identified by the Commission of Inquiry are a priority for this government.
“We have already seen significant work carried out, including the identification of serious offenders.
“There is clearly a lot of work to be done but this is a wonderful start.
Quotes attributable to the Attorney General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath:
“I am heartened to see how much progress has been made in just eight months.
“This progress is a reflection of the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to improving our forensic DNA services and restoring the public’s trust in the criminal justice system.
“This investment will provide the necessary capacity to conduct historical reviews of 30,000 cases to determine whether further DNA testing or interpretation may be appropriate.”
Quotes attributable to Chief Executive Officer of Forensic Services Queensland, Professor Linzi Wilson-Wilde:
“We have prioritised building a suitably skilled workforce, including a strong leadership team, and implementing processes that will ensure forensic DNA samples are tested to the highest standards.
“The leadership of interim advisory board co-chairs Julie Dick SC and Mr Sofronoff KC has been instrumental in our efforts to overhaul forensic DNA services.
“This additional investment will provide the capacity needed to reduce the time it takes for testing on matters before the courts, and to work through the cases that are identified as requiring retesting.