This is to outline the position on the proposed European Council framework decision on accreditation of forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities. This proposal will ensure, through legislation, that the results of accredited forensic laboratory activities, specifically DNA and fingerprints, of one member state will be recognised as being equivalent to the results of accredited forensic laboratory activities in another member state. This purpose is achieved by ensuring forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities in all member states are accredited by a national accreditation body to comply with the same international standard, EN ISO/IEC 17025.
I am happy to say that Ireland is well placed to meet its obligations under the framework decision. The organisations that carry out forensic laboratory activities in Ireland are the Forensic Science Laboratory and the Garda Technical Bureau, and, under this proposal, these organisations will be required to achieve the accreditation under this standard. The Forensic Science Laboratory already holds this accreditation while the Garda Technical Bureau is actively pursuing it and is confident it will achieve this comfortably within the timeframe envisaged by the framework decision.
The proposed framework decision was presented at the police co-operation working party of the Council of the European Union as a joint initiative of Sweden and Spain in June 2009. The increased use of evidence obtained in one member state in the judicial processes of another highlights the need to ensure the quality of the data is sufficiently high. Information originating from forensic processes in one member state currently may be associated with a level of uncertainty in another member state regarding how an item has been handled, what methods have been used and how the results were being interpreted.
It is especially important to safeguard the quality of the information exchanged when it relates to such sensitive personal data as DNA profiles and fingerprints. It is important to clarify that this framework decision does not aim to harmonise national rules regarding the judicial assessment of forensic evidence. It will always remain the responsibility of each individual judicial authority to assess any evidence, forensic or not, in accordance with its own national law.
This proposal is to be adopted, by unanimity, under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union — Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters. Acceptance of the decision constitutes the exercise of an option or discretion under Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Accordingly, the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas is necessary before Ireland can agree to the adoption of this framework decision. Once this decision is adopted, primary legislation will have to be enacted in Ireland to give effect to its provisions. The necessary legislative proposals will be drawn up by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in consultation with the Attorney General's office.
I welcome this proposal, which I believe will lead to increased co-operation and interaction between duly accredited laboratories in member states. The accreditation of forensic science providers carrying out laboratory activities is an important step closer to a safer and more effective exchange of information within the European Union. I believe Ireland's support for this proposal will further demonstrate our commitment in the field of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters among member states of the European Union.