On Thursday, 15 December 2022, the Queensland Government announced that it will provide an initial investment of more than $95 million to create a new framework for substantial reform to DNA and forensic services. This investment is a direct response to the recommendations in the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland.
According to Walter Sofronoff KC, Commissioner of the Inquiry, he had the “unfortunate duty to report that the methods, systems and processes used at the forensic DNA laboratory do not, in many ways, measure up to best practice”. Sofronoff KC highlighted that the forensic DNA laboratory has focussed too much on report efficiency to the detriment of high quality science, and that this sacrifice has been insidious in the validation of processes and equipment for use, the dedication of scientists’ time to a proper review of cases, and the lack of resources for research, development and innovation.
Ultimately, Sofronoff KC made over 100 recommendations for the Queensland Government to consider. He stated that if the recommendations were implemented, with a clear focus of the laboratory’s place as the independent provider of DNA evidence to the criminal justice system, the laboratory can become a best practice facility, in which the Queensland community can have confidence.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stated that it was crucial that Queensland society’s trust in state forensic and scientific services was restored. Specifically, the Premier confirmed that she “promised Queenslanders we would get to the bottom of issues surrounding DNA testing in Queensland when I announced the Commission of Inquiry in June. This inquiry has now done that, and the Commissioner’s recommendations will be our roadmap to deliver the necessary improvements.”
In accepting all recommendations of the report, the Premier stated that “the government will implement several interim measures immediately, including establishing Forensic Science Queensland with an independent Board of Management and a Forensic DNA Science Advisory Sub-Committee to provide independent, expert oversight and ensure scientific integrity”. These initiatives will begin this month.