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Queensland Implements New Laws To Ensure Forensic Testing Independence

Queensland has enacted laws to guarantee independence and impartiality following significant failings that necessitated the re-testing of thousands of DNA samples.

The need for reforms emerged after revelations surfaced regarding the Forensic Science Service, particularly highlighted in The Australian’s podcast series investigating the 2013 murder case of Shandee Blackburn. 

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Concerns about the handling of DNA evidence in Blackburn’s case prompted an inquiry into her death.

Last year, a forensic lab scandal further shook confidence when it was disclosed that over 100,000 samples might require re-testing due to flaws in the DNA testing process.

In response, bipartisan support from the government, the Liberal National Party, and the Greens led to the passage of new laws on Tuesday. 

These laws establish an independent statutory framework for the newly formed Forensic Science Queensland.

The restructured system comprises an independent director of Forensic Science Queensland, a government office for the director, and the Forensic Science Queensland Advisory Council, composed of 11 members. 

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The director, appointed by the governor in council upon the attorney general’s recommendation, must hold a tertiary qualification in a relevant scientific discipline and possess at least ten years of practical experience in forensics.

The advisory council will feature representatives from law enforcement, prosecution, defence, victim support, independent forensic science, and private legal practice.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said: “The purpose of these dedicated efforts [in the parliament] is to ensure that we have a top-class forensic service system.” 

Deb Frecklington, an LNP MP, condemned the forensic lab’s shortcomings, describing it as “one of the greatest failings in the criminal justice system that the world has ever seen.”

“We’re standing up for the victims … because of a maladministration that we tried to get this government to understand,” Frecklington said.

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