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Saturday 17 August 2019

Concern for Garda DNA unit over staff shortage

Whistleblower report: Mr Justice Peter Charleton made remarks. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Whistleblower report: Mr Justice Peter Charleton made remarks. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Seán McCárthaigh

Staffing levels within the specialist section of An Garda Síochána that oversees the recording of DNA samples has been described as inadequate by one of the force's own internal watchdogs.

A review by the Garda Professional Standards Unit last year of how gardaí handle forensic evidence and the DNA database identified a number of issues in how the force's National Forensic Coordination Office (NFCO) managed and monitored the recording of DNA material, including a lack of staffing.

The NFCO was established in 2015 as part of reform which saw the introduction of a new state-of-the-art DNA database system operated by Forensic Science Ireland,

The GPSU said 81pc of gardaí interviewed across 12 divisions said they were involved in the taking of DNA samples even though only 55pc said they had received some form of training on the taking, retention and destruction of DNA samples. Some gardaí explained they had used a "how to" video on the An Garda Síochána's portal to access information.

The GPSU expressed hope that the phased implementation of 38 specific recommendations it had made would "improve the processes".

An examination of drug-testing by gardaí by the GPSU concluded that the facility was not being utilised to its full potential. The GPSU said the lack of acceptance of the process by judges in certain areas was also causing problems.

Chief Superintendent John Nolan, the head of the GPSU, said the findings of the Charleton Tribunal, which examined how gardaí handled whistleblowers within the force, had made "for stark reading".

However, he said the importance of the work carried out by the GPSU was given added impetus by the Tribunal's chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, when he remarked that An Garda Síochána "must become a place where incompetence is not covered up, where laziness is called to account and where people respect their senior officers".

Mr Nolan said the GPSU had endeavoured to aspire to the judge's expectations by identifying organisational risks.

Irish Independent

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