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 7: Introduction to ethical issues

Debra Wilson

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


The previous chapters have discussed the current state of the science and the law in relation to genetic arguments, and whether the theoretical justifications for the criminal justice system need to be reexamined in light of this understanding. This chapter will move to the future, considering where this increasing scientific understanding and application in the courts might lead. Although some of the discussed scenarios might seem unrealistic (and indeed in some places, quotes from dystopian films and literature will be used to make a point), there is a grounding in reality in all of them. This chapter will consist of two parts. The first part will discuss the concept of compulsory genetic testing for Low MAOA. This is a concept that was raised in relation to XYY syndrome in the 1970s, and has recently begun to occur in discussions on genetic links to crime in relation to Low MAOA. The second part will discuss potential consequences of judges or juries continuing to accept a genetics argument, and of mandatory genetic testing for Low MAOA (or another gene with a potential link to antisocial behavior). This part will be written in the style of a legal Issues Paper. An Issues Paper is a document often provided by a Law Commission to highlight issues in a particular area of law that may be required to be addressed as part of any consideration of law reform. Utilizing this style of writing for this chapter has been chosen for two reasons.

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