Genetics, Crime and Justice
Show Less

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.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 2: History of genetics and criminal justice

Debra Wilson


The idea that a person’s genetic make-up is the sole determinant of his or her physical and behavioural characteristics is difficult to understand and accept. As a society, we pride ourselves on the idea that free will and self-awareness distinguish us from other forms of life. As individuals, we value concepts like freedom of expression or freedom of choice. Individual freedoms to make our own decisions, to control our own fate, to learn, and to grow are seen as fundamental rights that must be protected. A genetic determination argument, at its most extreme, is incompatible with these ideas. It suggests that none of those freedoms which we value so highly actually exist. Although as individuals we prefer to believe that we make decisions and choose to act in certain ways, genetic determinism considers that every part of our personality is in fact pre-determined by our genetic make-up. If as a society we favour the idea of free will and regard it as a beneficial, and perhaps necessary, element of our society, what is the appeal of a genetic determinism argument? Why does it frequently reoccur in discussions of criminal conduct, and in arguments in the criminal justice system? This chapter will provide a brief overview of the history of genetic-type arguments. It will begin by looking at early discussions amongst classical writers about the heritability of characteristics, and how this developed into early genetic-based thought and policy.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.