Police investigate alleged leak from DNA database

Police are investigating a claim an Environmental Science and Research worker has made an "inappropriate disclosure" from the national DNA profile databank.

ESR said today a criminal investigation had started.

"A staff member has been suspended pending the outcome of the police and internal investigations," a spokeswoman said.

The alleged security breach was the first since the databank began operating in 1996.

ESR was confident there had been no impact on the integrity or outcome of past or current criminal cases, the spokeswoman said.

The incident came just as ESR sought $2 million preparing for the Government's major push to boost DNA sampling of criminal suspects.

The Government is pushing legislation through Parliament which will eventually mean annual collection of 100,000 DNA samples -- as many as there are in the entire national DNA database at present.

The new system will require DNA profiles collected when people are charged to be held outside the database until the person is convicted, and for the sample to be destroyed if they are acquitted.

ESR's existing $21m contract with police for forensic services will expire in June 2010, a month before the first new DNA registrations are due to start.

ESR has the world's best hit rate on its forensic DNA database.

ESR had strict protocols and took "very seriously" its management of the national DNA databank, where profiled were kept on a separate dedicated secure system, the ESR spokeswoman said.

"External parties, including police, cannot access any information on it," she said.

"Access by ESR staff is limited, both physically and by system-security features, to those staff working within the forensic DNA facility."

An independent audit and review of all systems, policies and procedures related to the DNA databank has been started.

The databank has been heavily used as a crime-solving tool as it can not only link individuals to crimes, but show up links between apparently unrelated crimes.

One databank check connected one man to a burglary, an aggravated robbery, and a rape, and the offender later pleaded guilty to seven separate incidents.

About 2 percent of the population have their profile on the databank.