Mr RICHARD AMERY: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Police. How is NSW Police managing the growth in demand for DNA testing?
Mr CARL SCULLY: I thank former police officer the honourable member for Mount Druitt for asking a relevant police question. I acknowledge he has had continuing interest in policing matters. NSW Police has embraced the use of DNA technology in police investigations and is leading Australia in DNA and forensic testing. Each year NSW Police identifies more than 10,000 people who leave behind traces of forensic evidence at crime scenes. This take-up of DNA technology as a crime-fighting weapon has led to an increase in the number of samples that need to be processed. The amount of funding allocated towards DNA analysis demonstrates the Government's commitment to funding smarter policing. In 2001-02 we spent $2.3 million, in 2002-03 we spent $2.9 million and in 2003-04 and 2004-05 we have spent more than $4 million.
As honourable members would be aware, NSW Police submit forensic material to the Department of Health's Division of Analytical Laboratories. Police collect the material but it is analysed by the Department of Health for evidential purposes. The resulting profiles are uploaded to the NSW Police database for matching and reporting. Over the years the Division of Analytical Laboratories has provided, and continues to provide, an excellent service to NSW Police and, therefore, to our judicial system. However, the demands for forensic material are exponentially growing. There are many, many cases in which it is required to secure convictions. The number of forensic samples submitted for analysis grows by about 15 per cent a year, on average.
The Government has put in place a number of measures to deal with the growing demand. We have assigned NSW Police Forensic Services Group officers to triage the backlog; that is, culling completed cases and prioritising existing cases. The Government has allocated $200,000 for three months of weekend overtime so the Division of Analytical Laboratories can focus on backlog cases, and has allocated an additional $1.5 million towards reducing the backlog. Until recently only the Division of Analytical Laboratories had received accreditation from the National Association of Testing Authorities to conduct DNA testing.
I have good news for the House. Because we need to respond to the backlog of DNA analysis so court cases can be processed in a timely way, several independent commercial laboratories have now gained the necessary accreditation. This provides an opportunity for the Government to expand the sources whereby DNA material is analysed independently of the collection agency, being NSW Police. Recently Cabinet approved NSW Police conducting a three-month DNA outsourcing trial of volume crime and personal reference samples; that is using the additional $1.5 million. Expressions of interest will be called nationwide in accordance with the Government's procurement guidelines.
As the trial will use actual, de-identified, crime scene exhibits, NSW Police will ensure that necessary quality control measures are in place. The trial will be evaluated to ascertain whether there are benefits to NSW Police outsourcing a proportion of DNA workload. The Government is committed to ensuring that New South Wales continues to be at the forefront of scientific policing and is working towards a long-term plan to meet the increasing demand for DNA analysis in the criminal justice system.