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Aussie cops reopen 7,000 DNA convictions

Melbourne police admit errors

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Melbourne Police have withdrawn charges against a suspected double murderer, after they admitted that DNA evidence was wrong.

A further 7,000 cases will now be re-examined - every conviction secured in Victoria using DNA in the last 20 years.

Russell John Gesah was accused of a double murder and rape in 1984. Samples taken from the original crime scene apparently were subjected to a cold case review, and matched Gesah's profile on the national DNA database.

But a double check just before the trial revealed no such match. It emerged that the lab which checked evidence from the crime scene also tested material from Gesah on the same day, creating a risk of contamination.

Melbourne lawyer Robert Richter QC told the Australian that programmes like CSI give juries the wrong impression of the infallibility of DNA evidence. He said DNA evidence was a “very useful tool, but there are always problems with it associated with the way it's administered”.

He went on: “The reliability of a match produced under acceptable circumstances is no longer open to question, it's precisely what constitutes acceptable circumstances which may give rise to issues such as we've seen.”

Police apologised to Gesah and the family of the murder victims and said they were looking to improve their procedures. Some 500 cases have already been checked again and no problems found. ®

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