Chapter 3: Use of genetics in criminal investigations
In 1986, Richard Buckland confessed to the rape and murder of 15-year-old Dawn Ashworth, providing police with specific details of the crime scene that had not been released to the public. An issue with the confession arose, however, when it was discovered that Buckland’s blood type differed from that of blood found at the crime scene. British scientist Alec Jeffreys (who two years before had discovered DNA profiling) ran a DNA test on Buckland and confirmed the lack of a match with the crime scene blood sample. After he had informed the police of this result, a senior police officer commented ‘Jeffreys does a test that we’ve never heard of and comes back and says “you’ve got the wrong guy”. You can’t challenge it. How can you challenge brand new science? Nobody else in the bloody world knows anything about it.’ While this first use of DNA profiling was to exonerate Buckland, it was also subsequently used in this case to catch the killer, Colin Pitchfork, via a technique called a dragnet, or sweep. This chapter will consider the use of genetic material during the investigation of a crime. It will begin by examining the laws in relation to DNA profiling and databases, using several jurisdictions to compare approaches. From there it will consider some of the ethical issues associated with databases, including the use of samples or profiles in dragnets, familial testing and phenotyping.
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