Genetics, Crime and Justice

Genetics, Crime and Justice

Debra Wilson

As our understanding of genetics increases, its use in criminal justice becomes more attractive. This timely book examines the use of genetic information both in criminal investigations and during the trial process. It discusses current scientific understanding and considers some potential legal, ethical and sociological issues with the use of genetic information. Topics include rights of privacy and consent in obtaining DNA samples, evidentiary issues in court, the impact of genetic evidence on punishment theory and sentencing, and genetic discrimination.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Debra Wilson

Subjects: law - academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical law, criminal law and justice, law and society, regulation and governance

Extract

A seven-year-old boy, Andy Scott, has been found murdered. He has been stabbed approximately 20 times with a sharp object, and also exhibits bruising consistent with trauma from a blunt instrument, likely a baseball bat or stick. His body is found in a small park near the school he attends. He appears to have fought his attacker, and police find hair, skin and blood samples under his fingernails. DNA analysis suggests there were at least two attackers. The DNA is run through the National DNA Database, but no matches are found. The police decide to conduct a DNA dragnet in the area (asking that everyone who lives or works within a 1 km radius of the crime scene provide DNA samples to the police). Mr A, a 40-year-old teacher, refuses. He tells the police he has done nothing wrong, was out of town on the day in question, and therefore wishes to retain his privacy. The police advise him that if he does not comply, they will seek a court order for a sample, and the newspapers will find out. Scared that he will be branded a child murderer by the media, he unhappily complies. At the same time, the police run a second search of the DNA database, this time looking for a familial match (searching the database for someone whose DNA is close enough to the samples to be a close relative of one of the attackers). This produces a result.