DNA boss formally sacked after months on suspension

·2-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

The scientist in charge of Queensland's beleaguered state-run forensic laboratory has been sacked after a scathing inquiry into botched operations.

Former managing scientist Cathie Allen's employment was terminated late Wednesday afternoon in a formal letter sent to her legal team, a spokesman for Health Minister Shannon Fentiman confirmed.

Ms Allen had been stood down since the scathing inquiry into the lab practices that have compromised thousands of criminal cases.

The debacle continues to plague the state's justice system with 10,000 cases awaiting analysis in the severe backlog.

The lab has been forced to send out interstate SOS answered by the Australian Federal Police, which offered to help test bone samples.

Problems at Queensland's Forensic and Scientific Services lab were first raised in 2021 and eventually led to the inquiry headed by Walter Sofronoff KC. 

The four-month review found failures to properly test samples for years due to "grave maladministration involving dishonesty".

Ms Allen tried to cover up mounting problems with superiors, lab staff and police using a "deliberately crafted series of lies and misleading dodges", the report said.

"This state of affairs has been caused by both the structure of her role within FSS and her personal performance.

"As a result, the department leadership was not equipped to grapple with the real problem: a malignancy in the scientific management of FSS."

It blamed the forensic failures on Ms Allen, who had been in the role since 2008, for revising the testing threshold that meant thousands of DNA samples were never tested.

As a result, samples with low amounts of DNA were not automatically sent for further processing and were incorrectly ruled "insufficient".

The inquiry revealed lab managers focused on speed rather than accuracy, to the detriment of quality science.

Ms Allen repeatedly protested her innocence by insisting she was "not a liar" and had been depicted as "some kind of Disney villain".

"That's how I feel, yes," Ms Allen said during her evidence.

"It upsets me.

"I'm just trying to do the best job I can to care about the community, and I want to try to provide as many resources to the lab so they can do the best possible job.

Ms Allen did concede the lab's culture under her management focused on maximising savings rather than looking for opportunities to spend more money.

After the final report was handed down on December 13, Ms Allen and her deputies were issued with show-cause notices culminating in her formal dismissal on Wednesday.

Queensland's forensic lab is now reviewing thousands of sexual assault cases dating back to 2008. 

The facility has 60 full-time equivalent lab staff and 21 reporting scientists, with the government recruiting another 40 staff, including 30 DNA scientists.