Qld forensic staff stood down amid inquiry

·2-min read

Swift action has been taken against two senior staff members at Queensland's forensic lab as work continues to retest thousands of DNA samples that were initially overlooked.

An interim report handed down on Tuesday exposed serious shortfalls that centre on a failure to test samples under a certain DNA threshold.

Some samples could provide partial or complete DNA profiles, and Queensland police are reviewing criminal cases potentially affected between 2018 and June 2022.

It is still unclear why the threshold limits were changed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the staff members had been stood down pending the full results of an inquiry.

"This is perhaps one of the most concerning reports that our state has seen and we need to get to the bottom of it," she told reporters on Wednesday.

Ms Palaszczuk did not say why the staff members stood down or their positions.

"All I know is that the Director-General has stood two people down in the forensic unit pending the outcome of the inquiry," she said.

The premier said there was no advice or evidence of ministerial involvement in decisions about threshold limits.

"We want to get to the bottom of this, we want to know who was responsible, we want justice for victims. That is paramount," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Opposition leader David Crisafulli called for an apology to be issued to all Queenslanders.

"I don't think we as a state can comprehend just how big this report is and the ramifications of it. It will stretch for many years to come," he warned.

"I have no doubt as a result of these failings, victims were denied justice and criminals are walking the street, and every Queenslander is owed an apology for the failings that the state government has overseen."

Experts fear the findings may erode community trust in the science of DNA as a reliable source of evidence.

"DNA has the power to exonerate as well as convict. When the science is not practised correctly when the expert makes a statement which is beyond their expertise, lives can be destroyed," said forensic scientist Dr Richard Matthews.

"The innocent will be imprisoned, and the guilty will walk free. Resources of the state will be wasted."

The findings highlight the need for greater scrutiny and overarching regulation of expert witness evidence in Australia, he said.

"The science must be practised correctly with correct quality assurance measures in place. Laboratories should be independently accredited," Dr Matthews said.

A meeting between the premier's Director-General Rachel Hunter, the police commissioner and the heads of the Justice and Health department will be held on Wednesday to act on findings in the interim report.

The Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland will hold public hearings from next Monday.

The full report is due in December.