DNA database proving a ‘very valuable’ intelligence tool

Profiles of over 9,000 people uploaded to system by the end of last year, FSI says

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the value of the DNA database had ‘exceeded all expectations’ since its introduction in November 2015. Photograph: Maxwells.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the value of the DNA database had ‘exceeded all expectations’ since its introduction in November 2015. Photograph: Maxwells.

 

A new DNA database has provided critical information in more than 600 crimes including two murders, the Minister for Justice has said.

Frances Fitzgerald said the value of the database had “exceeded all expectations” since its introduction in November 2015 and was revolutionising the investigation of crime in the State.

Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) director Dr Sheila Willis said the database, now in operation for 18 months, had been an invaluable help to gardaí in solving crimes.

The FSI annual report says almost one in four (23 per cent) of crime scene samples uploaded to the DNA database is linked to a person. That figure is expected to grow as more DNA profiles are added to the database.

In the UK, which has one of the longest-established DNA databases in the world, some 60 per cent of samples taken at crime scenes are linked to a person.

Currently almost 1,000 DNA profiles from individuals are being uploaded on to the database every month in the Republic.

DNA profiles of 9,048 individuals had been uploaded to the system by the end of last year. These came from individuals under criminal investigation, convicted criminals and former offenders.

A total of 625 cases were aided by the DNA database last year of whom 520 matched a person to a specific stain. The other 105 yielded a DNA sample not linked to a person yet on the database.

The 520 samples came from 385 individuals of whom 308 were matched to single cases and a further 77 to multiple cases.

Burglar

One burglar, who was already in jail, was linked by his DNA to 13 other crime scenes.

A total of 84 per cent of the 385 individuals matched on the database were suspects and 16 per cent were already convicted criminals.

The DNA evidence gathered was mostly used in the detection of burglaries (295), followed by criminal damage (57), robberies/theft (42), sexual assault (5) and two murders.

“They (DNA matches) are really informative,” explained FSI director of DNA Dr Geraldine O’Donnell. “If you are able to link it to a person, that is the strongest link you can have.”

The annual report also revealed that new synthetic drugs such as NBOMes are a growing feature of the Irish drug scene.

NBOMe is an abbreviation for N-methoxybenzyl. These synthetic drugs have effects similar to LSD, but are much more toxic.

Dr Willis said the rise of synthetic drugs which are 100 times more toxic than regular substances are presenting new challenges to the FSI as the drugs involved are “highly dangerous”.

Forensic scientists detected 27 new recreational drugs in Ireland in 2016. The main drugs encountered in FSI last year were cannabis, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines and MDMA (ecstasy).