Managing Forensic Analysis: Fingerprints and DNA

The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today called for a review of the way that NSW Police manages forensic analysis to solve crime.

“While police are using the latest technology to fight crime, the increased use has led to delays,” Mr Achterstraat said.

There is a backlog of around 6,400 cases waiting for DNA evidence to be analysed.

“It will take more than a year to process this backlog with current resources even if no more cases are received,” said Mr Achterstraat. “And in regional areas, police may wait up to eight weeks to get the results of fingerprint analysis for common property crimes,” he added.

“The problem with backlogs and delays is that while police wait for results, crimes remain unsolved and criminals remain at large. This is not fair on the police and the people of NSW,” Mr Achterstraat explained.

The main reason for the DNA backlog is that more items are being submitted than can be processed with current resources.

“The demand for DNA analysis has increased by almost 40 per cent over the past five years but the funding for DNA analysis hasn’t kept pace,” said Mr Achterstraat. “Furthermore, police need to better manage the number of items per case they are submitting for analysis.”

These are some of the findings released today in the NSW Audit Office report Managing Forensic Analysis – Fingerprints and DNA. The audit examines what police have done to manage demand for analysis as well as what has been done to increase capacity.

Mr Achterstraat presented three key solutions.

“Firstly, we need a user pays agreement for all DNA analysis. Secondly, police must manage demand by determining the best evidence in a case and analysing that first. And thirdly, the greatest impact on reducing property crimes will be analysing DNA evidence for the most recent cases first by moving them to the front of the queue. This will give police a better chance of catching criminals and preventing further crimes.”

The report also recommended that items be removed from the queue when DNA analysis is no longer needed such as where the offender has been convicted.

Queensland and Victoria appear to have recently overcome a backlog in DNA analysis through increased resourcing and different approaches to management. Queensland and Victoria have around one DNA processing staff to every 150 police officers, while in NSW the ratio is one to 275.

“The safety of the people of NSW is of paramount importance. Crimes need to be solved as quickly as possible and delays need to be eliminated,” said Mr Achterstraat. “The efficient use of forensic analysis is critical in the prevention of further crime and needs to be addressed immediately for the benefit of the public.”

Further information

Emily Watson, Governance Officer, on 9275 7105 or email