Inquiry announced into Qld’s DNA lab

Queensland’s leading forensic lab will be scrutinised by a commission of inquiry as police review DNA evidence from hundreds of unsolved sexual assaults.

Widespread concerns have been raised about the state-run John Tonge Centre’s failure to test crucial forensic evidence.

Specimens that fall below a certain level are reported as ‘no DNA detected’ or ‘DNA insufficient for further processing’


“There have been a number of samples identified for further processing which have already been resubmitted to Queensland Health – this review is ongoing,” Queensland Police Service said in a statement.

“The QPS has raised concerns in relation to this matter and are working with our external stakeholders to resolve these issues.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said serious concerns had been raised and the ‘fresh evidence’ from the QPS must be addressed.

“It is clear to me that nothing short of a full, open and rigorous Commission of Inquiry can restore confidence in DNA testing in this state,” the premier said.

Justice Walter Sofronoff, former Queensland Court of Appeal president, will head the inquiry.

The inquiry has been set down for six months and given a multi-million dollar budget to examine all aspects and operations of the facility.

Justice Sofronoff will be given access to independent experts with the terms of reference yet to be released.

The government has already ordered a review into the laboratory operations to investigate threshold limits for DNA samples and compare Queensland to other jurisdictions.

Potential problems with the lab first came to light as a result of The Australian’s podcast series Shandee’s Story about the investigation into the brutal slaying of Shandee Blackburn.

The 23-year-old was stabbed more than 20 times on her way home from work in Mackay in February 2013.

Ms Blackburn was metres from her front door as she was attacked and killed.

Her former boyfriend, John Peros, a champion amateur boxer, was charged with murder but acquitted in the Supreme Court in 2017.

In August 2020, a Queensland coroner found Miss Blackburn died due to injuries sustained in an incident involving violence with Mr Peros who used a bladed instrument.

The coronial inquiry was reopened in February to consider “recent issues raised regarding the forensic evidence and testing of evidence in this case”.

The premier said DNA evidence was a central pillar of the Queensland justice system.

“The people of this state deserve to have the utmost confidence.”

© AAP 2022