Sunday 4 December 2016

New DNA database helps gardaí to solve more than 200 crimes

Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30

Officials said that as a result of breakthroughs in matching suspects to samples recovered from crime scenes, some 215 previously unsolved cases are now deemed to have been detected. (Stock photo)
Officials said that as a result of breakthroughs in matching suspects to samples recovered from crime scenes, some 215 previously unsolved cases are now deemed to have been detected. (Stock photo)

Over 130 people have been linked to specific crimes, including sex offences, since the new DNA database became operational seven months ago.

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They include a serial burglar whose DNA has put him at the scene of 13 separate burglaries.

Officials said that as a result of breakthroughs in matching suspects to samples recovered from crime scenes, some 215 previously unsolved cases are now deemed to have been detected.

The offences involved range from burglary and theft through to more serious offences against the person, such as sexual assault and false imprisonment, said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

The matches found by forensic scientists are admissible in evidence in criminal trials and are expected to become a feature of criminal cases as prosecutions are aided by the database progress.

Scientists have also found 25 "clusters" where an individual has been linked to several crimes. These include one person who has been linked to 13 burglaries and another who has been linked to seven burglaries.

The findings have reinforced the view of gardaí that three-quarters of all burglaries are being committed by 25pc of burglars.

"Crime stain samples are continuing to be matched on a daily basis," said the department spokesperson.

She said that to date over 2,500 samples from individuals and over 2,000 crime scene samples have been uploaded onto the database.

"This data is providing intelligence to the gardaí which confirms they are looking for the same criminal for these cases.

"It is also providing intelligence to the gardaí as to the type of crimes being committed.

"Even though it is early days for the Irish DNA database, the signs are positive that it will be invaluable in the fight against volume crime and has already begun to assist in redressing the balance between those involved in the commission of serious crime and the investigators tasked with building criminal prosecution cases against them."

The early success of the database will provide hope that some historical unsolved crimes, such as the 30-year-old disappearance of Dublin teenager Philip Cairns, can finally be solved.

Tests are expected to be undertaken to determine whether or not DNA found on the 13-year-old's schoolbag matches that of the late convicted paedophile Eamon Cooke, who emerged as a suspect in recent days.

The legislation underpinning the database allows for the collection of DNA samples from most suspects detained by gardaí in connection with serious offences subject to a sentence of five years or more.

Offenders on the sex offenders register and some former offenders who are no longer subject to sentence have also been included in the database.

Children under 14 and people with a mental or physical disability impeding their ability to give consent are exempt from giving samples.

Irish Independent

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