Issues leaked from DNA lab
Claims of workplace issues have emerged from a troubled Queensland DNA lab.
Issues continue to emerge from Queensland's state-run forensic crime laboratory, which has created a significant legal mess by issuing “untrue” or “misleading” statements to courts.
The statements have cast doubt over potentially thousands of criminal cases, which will now have to be re-examined and possibly thrown out entirely.
Staff claim that alleged serious DNA testing failures at the lab occurred alongside a “chronic toxic culture”, including bullying, claims of “vendettas” against managers and staff requiring stress leave.
Reports say the Queensland Government even had to bring in consulting companies, psychologists, mediators and lawyers to fix the long-running cultural problems at the Queensland Health facility.
It is alleged that conflicts existed between managers, and between managers and staff, leading to claims of bullying, counterclaims in response and state government lawyers having to investigate the escalating complaints and incident reports.
“They clearly knew there was a problem but little changed at the time as a result [of the consultants’ work],” a person who worked at the lab said, according to The Guardian.
“People were extremely stressed, making formal and informal complaints about one another regularly. It was drama after drama.
“Some of the people were lovely people, they were good scientists but there was a lot of trauma in that workplace. People went on stress leave, with those left behind stuck in a dysfunctional culture.
“When you’re in an environment where there’s poor communication from managers, mistakes could be made or not picked up on.”
Alex Scott, secretary of the Together public sector union, has told the ABC that successive governments were culpable in creating an environment that ultimately resulted in forensic scientists making misleading statements to courts.
“Both this government and the previous government were consistently warned about problems within the centre in relation to the underfunding, the under-resourcing and the cultural problems,” Mr Scott said.
“We’ve been calling for too long for the government to actually step in and make sure [the centre] has enough money and staff to do the job properly.
“Suspending two people halfway through this process clearly looks like a media reaction rather than addressing the fundamental issues and ensuring they don’t happen again.
“The centre has never recovered from the cuts that occurred under the Campbell Newman government but we’ve failed to see a regrowth of this centre compared to other parts of the health system.”
A commission of inquiry into forensic DNA testing in Queensland has been launched.
The Queensland police service has set up a taskforce to re-examine thousands of major crime cases and two senior staff members have been stood down.
There is no suggestion either of the staff members were responsible for cultural problems or were the subject of internal complaints.