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Sunday 26 May 2019
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DNA bank to be filled

THE DNA data bank is empty now. But the process to fill it begins next week. This was disclosed by DNA custodian Justin Lewis today to members of the National Security Joint Select Committee at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre.

In response to a question from Senate vice-president Nigel De Freitas, Lewis explained that could result in cold cases that involved DNA samples being re-opened.

He said if the DNA profiles of 2,000 prisoners were in a database “we need to have profiles on crime scenes.” Lewis explained that would allow “a comparison to include cold cases. Crime scene samples which would been collected by the police over time would have been analysed at the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James.” Lewis said the centre would provide him with those samples

He disclosed there were talks between the centre and himself about “technical requirements as regards eligibility of profiles.” Lewis added, “Currently, there is nothing really stopping us from today to get profiles in the system.” Those profiles would have to be reviewed by the centre and deemed eligible for data bank entry.

Centre director Derrick Sankar said previously only accredited data could have been used to fill the database. After seeking legal advice, Sankar said it was now possible to use unaccredited data gathered by the centre to fill the data bank. Lewis said, while the process to fill the data bank began next week, matching the crime scene samples with prisoner profiles would take some time.

National Security Ministry Permanent Secretary Vel Lewis said some 15,000 DNA kits had been acquired. He said 5,000 kits were allocated to the police while 4,000 were given to the prison service. The Health Ministry and regional health authorities have received 100 kits so far. Lewis also said nurses and doctors had been trained to take buccal swabs from prisoners.

Sankar said steps are being taken to accredit the centre to improve its exchange of centre with the DNA custodian. Lewis said the databank’s temporary home at the nearby Tower C is adequate.

The databank is to be relocated to another location in Port of Spain.

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