DNA and fingerprints data shared with other countries for first time
Gardaí will be able to share forensic evidence such as DNA profiles and fingerprints with authorities in other countries for the first time today.
Laws passed in 2015 are finally coming in to effect, meaning offenders arrested here could end up being linked to crimes outside of Ireland.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the move will represent "a very significant development" for the force here and ultimately help police in other jurisdictions.
Although gardaí began using a DNA database in 2015, it was not possible to exchange or compare identification data with other States until detailed technical and administrative arrangements were put in place. Gardaí will now be able to compare ID evidence with EU member states, Iceland and Norway.
Access to our DNA database and automated fingerprint information system by other states will be strictly controlled. Searches will be conducted by specialised officers and in the first instance, DNA profiles or fingerprint data will be anonymous.
In the event that a search reveals a match between the data supplied and data contained on the database being searched, the matter must be pursued within the mutual assistance framework.
This means that countries seeking the data must subscribe to a similar level of safeguards as criminal investigations in Ireland.
"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 co-operation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime," Mr Flanagan said.
"This enhanced international system will greatly assist police authorities in closing the net on criminals who travel from one country to another to engage in criminal acts."
The national DNA Database System, which is operated by Forensic Science Ireland, was set up three years ago as an 'intelligence tool'.
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, with a view to solving these crimes and securing convictions.
As of the beginning of November this year, 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 36.7pc.
This means 27 out of every 100 crime stains uploaded onto the database are linked to a person.