Review to look at 15 years of DNA in WA


A review of Western Australia's state forensic testing service will look back at 15 years of DNA results after innocent man Alan Staines was wrongly convicted of burglary.

The Public Sector Commission's review into the Forensic Biology Department of PathWest will examine a random sample of results from 2002 to 2017 to ensure compliance with protocols and procedures.

Mr Staines was 21 when he was arrested in 2004 after DNA found at the scene of a home invasion in Perth was incorrectly identified as his because PathWest did not check his birth date against a man with the same name.

Despite having an alibi, Mr Staines was advised by his lawyer to plead guilty as the DNA evidence was considered strong.

WA police were informed of the mix-up one year before they told Mr Staines in April, which has sparked an inquiry by Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan.

Earlier this year it was also revealed a senior forensic biologist at PathWest, Laurance Webb, was sacked for breaching testing protocols which could have affected 27 cases.

PathWest maintained there were no errors in his work and said the breaches, such as failing to conduct control testing and not having work peer reviewed, were procedural.

However, it took months for the Director of Public Prosecutions to be told.

The review will look into how effective quality controls are, if PathWest is complying with body search laws, and reporting policies that ensure protocols and procedures are being followed.

The North Metropolitan Health Service, which is responsible for PathWest, is undertaking its own review of the forensics service, and Attorney-General John Quigley has referred the DNA error to the Corruption and Crime Commission.

Health Minister Roger Cook said he was deeply concerned that breaches and errors compromised evidence and led to the wrongful conviction.

"All Western Australians need to have confidence in PathWest's ability to deliver high quality forensic services," he said.