Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

Year: 2005

Inclusiveness, Effectiveness and Intrusiveness: Issues in the Developing Uses of DNA Profiling in Support of Criminal Investigations

R. Williams & P. Johnson. Journal of Law Medicine and Ethics, 33(3), pp. 545-558. (2005).


The rapid implementation and continuing expansion of forensic DNA databases around the world has been supported by claims about their effectiveness in criminal investigations and challenged by assertions of the resulting intrusiveness into individual privacy. These two competing perspectives provide the basis for ongoing considerations about the categories of persons who should be subject to nonconsensual DNA sampling and profile retention as well as the uses to which such profiles should be put. This paper uses the example of the current arrangements for forensic DNA databasing in England & Wales to discuss the ways in which the legislative and operational basis for police DNA databasing is reliant upon continuous deliberations over these and other matters by a range of key stakeholders. We also assess the effects of the recent innovative use of DNA databasing for ‘familial searching’ in this jurisdiction in order to show how agreed understandings about the appropriate uses of DNA can become unsettled and reformulated even where their investigative effectiveness is uncontested. We conclude by making some observations about the future of what is recognised to be the largest forensic DNA database in the world.

Tags: , Robin Williams

The secondary transfer of fibres from head hair

R. Palmer & M. Banks. Science & Justice, 45(3), pp. 123-128. (2005).


In this study, the effects of fibre type, hair style, time and fibre persistence on the secondary transfer of mask fibres to pillowcases via head hair were studied. Volunteers with a range of hair styles, and masks consisting of different fibre compositions were used in the study. Fibres from the masks were found to transfer from donor subjects to the pillowcases up to 14 nights after the mask had been worn. On average, the number of secondarily transferred fibres found decreased with time; however, this decrease appeared to be more ‘linear’ in nature, rather than an exponential decay. The greatest degree of secondary transfer occurred with cotton, then acrylic, then wool. In a primary transfer/persistence experiment with a 50% acrylic/50% wool mask, wool was found to persist in the hair more readily than acrylic. The results also showed that the greatest degree of secondary transfer occurred via short straight and long straight hair, with no clear pattern emerging between medium length hair (both straight and curly) and with long curly hair. The implications of these findings for the assessment and interpretation of casework are considered along with data obtained from related studies.

Tags: , Ray Palmer

DNA: risk of contamination

G.N. Rutty & E.M.A. Graham. “DNA: risk of contamination” in J. Payne-James, R.W. Byard, T.S. Corey & C. Henderson (Eds) Encyclopaedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine (Vol. 2), Elsevier, Oxford. (2005).

Tags: , Eleanor Graham

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