By Niamh Connolly
People suspected of a crime will be forced to give DNA samples to gardaí, under plans for a DNA database which have been approved by the government.
The samples of suspects in criminal cases, as well as those convicted of crimes, will be held in the database, under radical new legislation to be published next month.
It will pave the way for gardaí to take body samples – including hair, saliva, urine, nail clippings or blood – from suspects who are in custody for offences carrying a jail sentence of five years or more.
The legislation will allow gardaí to use ‘‘reasonable force’’ to take samples in cases where the suspect refuses to allow it. The samples of convicted criminals and sex offenders will be stored permanently. Suspects who are later released without charge or are acquitted in court will still have their DNA stored on the database for three years.
Former prisoners who have completed their sentence in Ireland or abroad but remain of interest to gardaí will also be subject to DNA testing under the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2009.
The cabinet last week approved the legislation from justice minister Dermot Ahern, and it will be enacted early next year.
It allows gardaí to compare samples taken from criminal suspects to evidence collected at crime scenes. The samples – usually plucked hairs or mouth swabs – will be forensically examined and stored at a purpose built Forensic Science Laboratory at Backweston in Celbridge, Co Kildare, which already houses other state labs. The existing laboratory at the Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park is unsuitable for the new DNA database, according to sources.
Under the bill, a suspect’s DNA profile will be stored on the database and will be available for searching against all crime scene profiles held on the system.
The measure will also apply to those arrested under the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking ) Act 1996, and the Offences Against the State Act 1939, which do not meet the five-year threshold.