Almost 100 taxi drivers are being asked by the Garda to provide DNA samples as part of a major investigation into an alleged rape of a woman after a night out in Dublin in December, 2015.
The drivers have been selected for testing because their cars match the make and model of the suspect’s vehicle.
According to the Irish Times, it is the first case of mass screening since the DNA database was introduced in the Republic in November 2015.
The gathering of DNA samples from a large group of people, without specific incriminating evidence against any of them, has traditionally been regarded as contentious by civil liberties groups.
In the 2015 incident, the victim had been socialising in the Harcourt Street area of the south inner city and had hailed a taxi on the street to be taken home. However, she alleges that while being driven to Raheny, north Dublin, the driver raped her.
The investigating gardaí gathered DNA samples immediately after the attack. And they believe they have the DNA profile of the taxi driver against whom the allegation has been made.
They have also determined the suspect’s car was a dark colour Prius and that the vehicle model dated from 2004-2009. The suspect’s taxi was recorded on CCTV, though not the vehicle’s registration plate.
Gardaí have used the taxi database to establish that 84 drivers were working in a vehicle similar to the suspect’s car at the time of the attack. The investigation team, based in north Dublin, have been contacting the drivers seeking a DNA sample. By law, the drivers cannot be compelled to provide a sample. Instead, they were being asked to do so to assist the Garda in eliminating them from the investigation and to narrow down the field of possible suspects.
Those who have been approached have been informed their voluntary samples are being collected only as part of this investigation. The drivers have been informed their DNA profile will not be held on the DNA database. If their samples do not match the DNA profile gathered during forensic testing immediately after the attack, they will be destroyed.
The samples have been taken via mouth swab, and it is understood the process is almost complete.
The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014 that provides for mass testing was enacted just three weeks before the attack now being investigated.
Any garda at the rank of chief superintendent or higher can authorise a mass DNA screening of a “class of persons” once the garda believes it is “likely to further the investigation” and “is a reasonable and proportionate measure”.
While mass DNA screening has only been possible in the Republic for the past 13 months, it has been used in Britain since the 1980s.