Third of prisoners fail to give sample of DNA under law to determine if they are linked to other crimes
Burglars and ‘political’ inmates among the 1,750 who said ‘No’
September 13 2020 02:30 AM
More than 1,750 convicted criminals have failed to provide a DNA sample from behind bars to determine if they are linked to other crimes, despite being required to do so by law.
New data released to the Sunday Independent shows that 1,759 convicts are flouting tough new forensic laws, introduced in 2015, despite the best efforts of prison staff. This amounts to 35pc of the prison population required to provide a DNA sample refusing to comply.
In all, just 3,173 prisoners have provided a DNA sample out of the required 4,932 inmates since new laws came into effect on November 20, 2015, according to figures from the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
Under the 2015 Forensic Evidence and DNA Database Act, any prisoner serving a sentence of five years or more is required by law to provide a sample for the crime-fighting DNA database.
A prison service spokesman said some of the 1,759 inmates who refused did so on medical grounds or had already been released from jail.
In a statement the IPS said: “Since the start of DNA sample-taking in November 2015, a total of 4,932 requests have been made to date. We have had a total of 3,173 samples taken and the total samples refused is 1,759.
“The ‘gap’ between number of requests and number of samples taken can be attributed to a number of factors and is not all down to refusals.
“Prisoners may not be able to provide a sample, for medical reasons. Further, between the time a prisoner is identified as being required to provide a sample, and the time the sample is due to be taken, the prisoner could be released at end of sentence, released on temporary release or hospitalised.” ADVERTISE
Specialist prison officers from Operational Support Group (OSG) are tasked with collecting the DNA samples, which takes the form of a mouth swab. The main role of the OSG is to prevent the direction of crime from prisons and to detect prohibited articles within prisons. Unlike gardaí, prison officers cannot compel inmates to provide a sample.
A well-placed prison source said: “Essentially, there’s a loophole and it is being exploited by a huge cohort of inmates who are point-blank refusing to give a sample. They know that prison officers can’t force them. So they say no in more colourful language usually, and that’s the end of that.”
The prison source added that the high proportion of inmates refusing to provide a DNA sample “are clearly career criminals, burglars and organised criminals, so-called political prisoners… lads with something to hide, with concerns their DNA has been left at crime scenes all over the place”.
A prison service spokesman confirmed that prison officers cannot compel inmates to provide a sample.
He added that gardaí are advised when a prisoner required to give a sample refuses to do so. “Further, a prisoner refusing is liable to sanction under the internal prisoner disciplinary system.”
The State’s DNA database is operated by Forensic Science Ireland in Phoenix Park. Called the Combined DNA Index System, it is used in 40 countries and has been installed in the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory since 2014.