An inquiry has been announced after months of the Queensland Government facing questions regarding alleged failures regarding DNA testing at the forensics labs run in the state.
Following the death of Shandee Blackburn this inquiry hopes to bring answers to those who have been affected.
Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszcuk has noted that the confidence in the states DNA testing will only be restored with this rigorous commission of inquiry. This inquiry will look to examine all operations of the states lab which consistently analyses close to 28,000 samples per year.
In conducting this review Justice Walter Sofronoff will look to examine all aspects of the lab and utilise independent experts in order to find true justice for the state.
While Justice Sofronoff will distinguish what terms to look toward, the QLD premier has noted that all testing limits will be removed and any sample collected no matter the size will undergo fresh DNA profiling as announced on Monday.
The QLD Government notes that a contribution of six million dollars will be made leading to the final inquiry being completed in December
The Queensland Police Service note these failures and have identified that the majority of samples that have been returned by the labs previously, on resubmission have returned a usable profile.
This has prompted the QPS to now look at re-examination of all sexual matters that were deemed to have unusable DNA profiles dating back to 2018.
However, as noted by Julie Sarkozi (lawyer at WLSQ) the opening up and charging of offenders should only occur with the consent of the survivors.
This inquiry and the new cases that will be opened may finally lead to closure that many families have hoped for and the categorisation of insufficient for further processing, as many samples were referred to previously, will be removed.
However, as noted by Defence Lawyer Bill Potts, the inquiry is a two – edged sword. This means that the ability of re trial for individuals who were incorrectly convicted may occur and as such may assist those who have been wronged by the system currently in place.
The idea of double jeopardy may lead to some issues, but the provision itself is one that reflects changes in the legal system and while an argument before the court will be necessary (as noted by Potts) the utilisation of this evidence may assist in finally providing much needed answers to those who seek them. In terms of the inquest into the death of Ms Blackburn, if sufficient evidence is provided it may mean that John Peros, who was originally on trial for the murder of Ms Blackburn may appear before the court once again.
While the death of Ms Blackburn prompted this inquiry, those who have suffered through failures in matters regarding sexual assault must also be assisted. The compromission of the justice system is one of the paramount considerations and as noted by Queensland opposition leader, the inquiry is a win for every Queensland who deserves a system that can provide a renowned level of service. However, the Queensland Premier has already noted that the cold case of Ms Blackburn will be reopened in order to find the true justice which she has been denied.