Po­lice, lab cleared over DNA mis­take

Albany Advertiser - - NEWS - Grant Tay­lor

WA Po­lice and PathWest have been cleared of any mis­con­duct for fail­ing to no­tify a man that he had been wrong­fully con­victed of a crime un­til a year af­ter the mis­take was un­cov­ered.

Alan Stephen Staines was ar­rested in 2004 af­ter PathWest sci­en­tists in­cor­rectly iden­ti­fied him as the source of a DNA sam­ple that was found at the scene of a home bur­glary.

The er­ror was dis­cov­ered by PathWest in April last year and the agency im­me­di­ately no­ti­fied po­lice that a bun­gle had oc­curred. But Mr Staines, 34, was not told about the mis­take un­til April this year.

The de­lay was re­ferred to the Cor­rup­tion and Crime Com­mis­sion in May by At­tor­ney-Gen­eral John Quigley who said he was “deeply con­cerned” that “se­ri­ous mis­con­duct” may have oc­curred.

But the CCC yes­ter­day con­firmed its in­quiries had not iden­ti­fied any is­sues that war­ranted fur­ther ac­tion be­ing taken.

“This mat­ter was re­ported to the Cor­rup­tion and Crime Com­mis­sion by the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral, and was as­sessed in line with the com­mis­sion’s usual pro­ce­dures,” a spokes­woman said.

“Based on the in­for­ma­tion avail­able, the com­mis­sion de­cided to take no fur­ther ac­tion.”

Po­lice and PathWest have never given a de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of what caused the de­lay.

But for­mer po­lice com­mis­sioner Karl O’Cal­laghan in­di­cated in May that “hu­man er­ror” was the cause,

Based on the in­for­ma­tion avail­able, the com­mis­sion de­cided to take no fur­ther ac­tion. CCC spokes­woman

not any de­lib­er­ate at­tempt at a coverup or cor­rup­tion. It is un­der­stood an in­ter­nal po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion has since iden­ti­fied that a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual was the source of the de­lay.

It is also un­der­stood the per­son re­spon­si­ble did not de­lib­er­ately with­hold the in­for­ma­tion but had sim­ply for­got­ten to take the nec­es­sary ac­tion that would have re­sulted in the no­ti­fi­ca­tion go­ing ahead.

Lawyers for Mr Staines re­cently lodged an ap­peal on his be­half in or­der to have his con­vic­tion fi­nally over­turned.

De­spite be­ing in­no­cent, he was en­cour­aged by his lawyer in 2004 to plead guilty to the crime in or­der to avoid what could have been a three­year jail sen­tence.

The de­ci­sion re­sulted in him be­ing given a 12-month sus­pended sen­tence in­stead.

But Mr Staines claims the con­vic­tion has hin­dered his em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and turned some mem­bers of his own fam­ily against him. He has also in­di­cated he in­tends to seek com­pen­sa­tion, but no for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion can be made un­til his name is fi­nally cleared by the courts.

Mr Quigley has al­ready is­sued an apol­ogy to Mr Staines on be­half of the State Gov­ern­ment for the mis­take.

Pic­ture: Danella Be­vis

Shearer Alan Staines at home in Ken­de­nup, north of Mt Barker. Mr Staines was wrongly con­victed of a home in­va­sion af­ter staff at PathWest bun­gled a DNA test, al­low­ing the real of­fender to go un­pun­ished for more than a decade.

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