New law will force prisoners to give sample for DNA bank
EVERYONE serving a jail sentence for a serious offence will be required to give a DNA sample after new legislation comes into force.
A national DNA database is also to be set up here after the publication yesterday of the proposed legislation to give the go-ahead for the move, after a delay of more than a decade.
The databank had been sought by the garda authorities since the late 1990s and was seen by senior officers as a key weapon in the fight against serious crime.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said yesterday the bill represented a major step forward and would give the gardai access to intelligence on a scale and quality that had never before been available.
He pointed out that the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010 would also enable the taking of samples which could be used as evidence in a criminal trial.
Gardai believe that a proper database will significantly boost their detection rates.
It will also be used for missing persons inquiries and to help identify injured people who cannot identify themselves, and human remains.
A suspect arrested for a serious offence can be required to give a sample and a profile generated from that will be placed on the database, along with samples collected at crime scenes.
Samples will be required from those behind bars for a serious crime and will also include those on temporary release or on suspended sentences and those on the sex offenders' register.
Mr Ahern said: "The combination of these two major sources of samples, suspects and convicted persons, will ensure that, within a short time, a significant proportion of the criminal community will have their samples on the database."
Last night the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said it would review the bill to establish if it struck the right balance between catching criminals and protecting private life.
Director Mark Kelly said there was an entirely legitimate public interest in the creation of a DNA database that made it easier to catch criminals but the sampling, retention and sharing of DNA required special safeguards to ensure the private lives of innocent people were protected.
Fine Gael's justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan welcomed the database but expressed his disappointment that it had taken the Government so long to get started on it.
"There is no doubt that lives would have been saved had the Government acted more promptly," he added.