DNA profiles and fingerprints will be freely shared between EU member states after a legal provision comes into effect today. The hope is that the sharing of forensic data will prevent cross-border crime and close the net on criminals who travel from one country to another.
Forensic Science Ireland maintains and operates a national database, which facilitates the matching of DNA profiles from crime scenes with DNA profiles uploaded from individuals under criminal investigation, former offenders and convicted criminals.
Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Justice and Equality, announced that he had signed provisions within the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act. He stressed that access to the database would be strictly controlled and would comply with data protection requirements. Anonymous searches would be conducted by authorised officers for DNA profiles or fingerprints only. Searches for a person by their name or location would be prevented.
“I am conscious of the need to achieve an appropriate balance between the investigation of crime in the public interest and protecting individuals’ personal rights. The mutual assistance arrangements in place in our national legislation ensure that personal data of Irish citizens accessed by other states will have the same level of safeguards as would apply to such data in respect of criminal investigation within this jurisdiction”, said Mr Flanagan.
As of last month, the Department of Justice said that the database contained 16,361 DNA profiles of suspected and convicted offenders.