Staff shortages and underfunding behind Queensland’s DNA testing scandal, union says

Serious questions have been raised over whether severe staff shortages and extreme budget pressures at Queensland’s government-run forensic science laboratories drove a controversial ruling that has cast a cloud over thousands of major crime investigations.

Together Union state secretary Alex Scott has hit out at both sides of politics, describing them as culpable in creating an environment that resulted in the decision, which led forensic scientists to provide misleading statements to courts.

“Both this government and the previous government were consistently warned about problems within the center in relation to the underfunding, the under-resourcing and the cultural problems,” Mr Scott said.

“We’ve been calling for too long for the government to actually step in and make sure it has enough money and staff to do the job properly.”

Mr Scott has called on the commission of inquiry into forensic DNA testing in Queensland to examine the extent to which resourcing failures were involved.

An interim report by inquiry head Walter Sofronoff KC, a former Queensland Court of Appeal president, found that between early 2018 and June this year, laboratory scientists gave “untrue” or “misleading” witness statements about the detection of DNA in some crime scene samples. .

Mr Sofronoff found that under an agreement between Queensland Health and the Queensland Police Service, crime scene samples that did not contain quantities of DNA above a certain threshold were not processed further and were reported in witness statements as having “insufficient DNA for analysis”.

He said this was despite the possibility of obtaining “an interpretable profile”.

Forensic labs need ‘massive injection of funds’

Together Union says the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services (QHFSS) lab needs more staff and funding.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd )

Two employees at Queensland Health’s Forensic and Scientific Services have been stood down in the wake of the interim report.

Mr Scott described their suspension by Queensland Health’s acting director-general Shaun Drummond as “inappropriate”, given Mr Sofronoff is yet to finish his inquiry.

“Suspending two people halfway through this process clearly looks like a media reaction rather than addressing the fundamental issues and ensuring they don’t happen again,” he said.

“The government itself needs to be more responsible for the whole situation.

“The center has never recovered from the cuts that occurred under the Campbell Newman government, but we’ve failed to see a regrowth of this center compared to other parts of the health system.”

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