Qld DNA testing inquiry: Scientist Allan McNevin explains lab’s testing process

A senior scientist at the scandal-plagued Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services lab has defended its process of not testing samples from crime scenes which only contained small amounts of DNA.

Allan McNevin told a commission of inquiry into the testing of forensic evidence in Queensland he was thinking about how efficient the lab team could be when it came to processing samples with low amounts of DNA.

“It’s the broader practicalities of working in a scenario where it’s not practical to sample everything at a crime scene,” he said.

“You don’t have the resources to do everything and spend all the time in the world.”

During cross-examination, Mr McNevin said DNA samples within the DIFP (DNA insufficient for further processing) range would be re-examined if they were asked to do more testing by Queensland Health.

The probe, led by former judge Walter Sofronoff, is examining the process by the state-run lab since 2018 to stop testing crime scene samples which only contained tiny amounts of DNA.

An interim report revealed scientists gave misleading statements about the detection of DNA for almost two years.

On Monday afternoon, Mr McNevin said a risk assessment on the new process was completed, including whether it would impact how evidence was recovered.

The inquiry was told any risks to the recovery of samples were offset by “process efficiency” so the results “were more timely”.

Mr McNevin was also asked about cleaning protocols for tools used to extract bone samples after concerns were earlier raised of the impacts of bleach and ethanol on the equipment.

He said there wasn’t a need for individual cleaning protocol for every individual tool.

The inquiry was told during his time, as the evidence recovery supervisor, no one raised concerns about equipment pitting or rusting.

“No one has come back to me to say, ‘Allan, that wasn’t the best process,’” Mr McNevin said.

“No one had that conversation.”

Throughout the inquiry, multiple employees at the lab gave evidence of a “toxic” work culture, including workers being referred to as “f–kers”.

One scientist last week raised concerns about whether criminals were getting off “scot-free” because DIFP samples were not being tested thoroughly enough.

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