Inquiry hears police pressure on DNA lab

Queensland Police pressured the state-run DNA lab to “get results out faster” before a decision was made to scale back detailed testing and reporting of serious crime samples, an investigation it has been heard.

Frontline police are also expected to be called before investigating forensic testing arrangements to detail missed opportunities following the 2018 change that will see thousands of DNA samples – and relevant cases – reviewed.

The commission of inquiry, headed by former Court of Appeals President Walter Sofronoff, held its first day of public hearings on Monday and learned that senior lab officials had consistently raised concerns since the decision.

Sofronoff caused shockwaves in the criminal justice system with his preliminary findings, released last week, that the change ultimately resulted in expert testimony submitted to police and courts being “untrue” or “misleading” about the ability to extract more detail from DNA to win samples.

Kylie Rika, senior scientist for the forensic and science service, has now told the inquiry that she believes internal concerns were dismissed as a “nuisance” partly due to a “toxic” culture at the lab and management’s perception of negative feedback.

Rika, who appeared before the inquiry on Monday, also said a conversation with a senior staff member suggested the urgency of the change may have been caused by police pressure to “get more results out quicker”.

Commissioner Walter Sofronoff KC questions Kylie Rika, chief investigator for the forensic and science service, during Monday's hearing.

Commissioner Walter Sofronoff KC questions Kylie Rika, chief investigator for the forensic and science service, during Monday’s hearing.

“I do not know exactly. But in my opinion… it was probably because of the pressure that was being put on the lab,” Rika said. “What I was told [was] Pressure on the laboratory to produce results: faster, more results.”

She was then asked to confirm some of her criticism of the then-planned 2018 change, in which she saw the data underpinning elements of the push as “confusing” and suggested that the fact — along with the urgency — meant “that we might miss something”.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/queensland/more-results-more-quickly-inquiry-hears-of-police-pressure-on-dna-lab-20220926-p5bl4y.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national Inquiry hears police pressure on DNA lab

Joel McCord

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