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DNA database and crime stain sharing goes live across EU

27 Dec 2018 / digital evidence Print

Crime stain and database sharing goes live across EU

From today, forensic evidence, such as DNA profiles and fingerprints, can be exchanged and compared with databases in other EU Member States.

Today’s commencement of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014 is a very significant development, Justice minister Charlie Flanagan said.

The 2014 DNA act introduces a new statutory framework for forensic evidence, and establishes a DNA database for criminal probes.

DNA profiles

“The coming into operation of these legal provisions will facilitate the exchange of DNA profiles and other identification evidence with other states, greatly enhancing international cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime,” he said.

Access to the national DNA and fingerprint database will be strictly controlled, in line with data-protection requirements, the Department of Justice has said.

Searches will be conducted using DNA profiles without any identifying information.

If a match is found after an anonymous search, the matter must be pursued within the mutual assistance framework under the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008.

The 2014 DNA act makes extensive amendments to the 2008 act to ensure that interstate data transmission benefits from a comparable level of safeguards to that which applies at home.

Huge potential

Minister Flanagan added: “I have no doubt that access to DNA and such databases between states has huge potential to be very useful in view of the international mobility of criminals.

“I am also conscious, however, of the need to achieve an appropriate balance between the investigation of crime in the public interest, and protecting individuals’ personal rights.”

The national DNA database system, maintained and operated by Forensic Science Ireland, has been in operation for three years.

The database facilitates the matching of DNA profiles from crime scenes (known as crime stains) with DNA profiles uploaded from individuals under criminal investigation, convicted criminals, and former offenders.

As of November, the database contained 16,361 DNA profiles of suspected offenders and convicted offenders, along with 4,971 crime-stain profiles.

There have been some 1,825 person-to-stain matches to date, with a crime-stain match effective rate of 36.7%.

Crime-stain matches

The crime-stain match effective rate measures the crime-solving capacity, which means that 37 out of every 100 crime stains uploaded onto the database are linked to a person already on the database.

The vast majority of the provisions of the 2014 DNA act came into operation in November 2015, when the new DNA database system went live.

It was not possible to begin automated DNA exchange and comparison without comprehensive peer evaluation, piloting and testing, ensuring compliance with data-protection requirements and, finally, EU Council approval.

Decisions

The EU Council adopted the relevant implementing decisions on 19 November 2018.

The new law encompasses EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway, and will introduced on a phased basis in Ireland

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