Qld first open for forensic examination

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Queensland could launch an investigation into its state-run forensic laboratory as police look into sexual assault cases dating back to 2018.

The potential problems with the lab first came to light following the Australian podcast series Shandee’s Story into the inquest into Shandee Blackburn’s death in 2013.

The newspaper reported on Wednesday that Queensland Police were reviewing hundreds of sexual assault cases involving evidence flagged as having “insufficient DNA for processing”.

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The government has ordered a review of the systems and processes of the state-run forensic DNA analysis unit.

Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said the investigation may only be a first step.

“That doesn’t mean there won’t be an additional investigation,” she told reporters on Thursday.

‘Don’t think for a minute that I don’t think these issues are serious… the Minister of Health is absolutely determined to see what is happening and fix this issue.’

The terms of reference for the government review were tabled in May and include an investigation into the appropriateness of cut-offs for DNA samples.

Specimens that fall below a certain level are flagged as ‘no DNA detected’ or ‘insufficient DNA for further processing’, and the review will look at how Queensland compares to other jurisdictions.

Liberal National Party Spokesperson for the Prevention of Sexual Violence, Amanda Camm, has called on the lab to be investigated by a commission of inquiry into the Queensland Police Service.

“It’s incredibly traumatic for a victim of sexual assault to undergo a forensic examination,” she said.

“They need to be assured that they will not be deprived of justice because of the failures of the laboratory.”

Shandee Blackburn, 23, was stabbed multiple times in a frenzied attack just yards from her front door as she returned from a late shift at Harrup Park Country Club in Mackay just after midnight on February 9, 2013.

A coroner’s inquest into his death will be reopened at the request of state attorney general Shannon Fentiman.

Ms Fentiman called for further consideration given “recent issues raised regarding forensic evidence and evidentiary testing in this case”, a Queensland Coroners Court official said in February.

The central coroner has not yet decided whether the inquest will be reopened.

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