Australia, British police ink DNA sharing deal

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian and British police on Thursday signed a deal allowing access to each other's DNA databases as part of an international push to tackle serious crimes such as terrorism, rapes and murders.

Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who sealed the agreement with British Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire, said the exchange deal was part of a pilot programme involving the two nations as well as the United States and Canada.

"The interconnected nature of today's world has created a borderless criminal threat environment," Mr Keenan said in a statement. "The signing of this memorandum of understanding supports Australia's commitment to international law enforcement cooperation which is paramount for safety and security globally."

The agreement will allow British police to search for DNA profiles from Australia, and for their Australian counterparts to do the same in their database. Mr Keenan said the Australian Federal Police had already previously assisted British officers in a cold case investigation, and that his government was looking for further opportunities to exchange DNA and other biometrics data across borders.

The justice minister reportedly told an international conference earlier this week that biological data collected by US agencies helped identify an Australian killed in a drone strike in Yemen last year.

"In this case, a DNA sample provided by international agencies was matched with a sample held by domestic Australian law enforcement," Mr Keenan told The Australian newspaper.

Government agency CrimTrac runs the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database, which assists Australian police in matching DNA profiles collected by forces from different states and territories.

The database has records of more than 700,000 DNA profiles as of January 2013, CrimTrac said. Australia signed the Interpol Charter in 2011, which allowed it to access the cross-border police agency's DNA database.