The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has recently published the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010 (the “Bill”). The Bill proposes the introduction of a national DNA database. The database will hold samples of persons arrested for certain criminal offences and a separate part of the database will be available to help trace and identify missing or unknown persons. The Bill provides for the taking of intimate (e.g. a blood sample) or non-intimate samples (e.g. a hair sample) which may then be used to generate DNA profiles of those people sampled. The Minister stated that he hoped that within a short time a significant proportion of the criminal community will have their samples on the database and that this fact would, of itself, act as a deterrent for some.

When the Bill is enacted anyone who is arrested for a serious offence may be required to give a sample. A profile will be generated from that sample and will be included in the database, along with samples collected from the crime scenes. The Gardaí (the Irish police) will only be authorised to take samples from those persons arrested in relation to serious offences (meaning offences with a penalty of at least 5 years imprisonment). Anyone in prison and who is serving a sentence for a serious offence may be sampled. Samples may also be taken from anyone on the sex offenders register.

The drafting of the Bill takes into consideration the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S and Marper v UK. The Court held that the indefinite retention of DNA samples, profiles and fingerprints taken from persons who are not charged or who are acquitted is an infringement of the ECHR’s privacy provisions. In light of this decision, the Bill provides that only samples of those persons convicted of a serious offence will be held indefinitely. Otherwise, samples will be held for three years and profiles for ten years, subject to the right of the person to apply to have their materials removed from the database.

The database will be established and operated by the Forensic Science Laboratory, which will renamed as the EFÉ. An oversight committee will be established to oversee the operation of the database by the EFÉ and it will be headed by a judge of the Circuit or High Courts. The committee will be required to ensure the integrity of the database is maintained.