Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

Year: 2007

Trace Biometrics and Criminal Investigations

R. Williams & P. Johnson. “Trace Biometrics and Criminal Investigations”, in T. Newburn, T. Williamsson & A. Wright (Eds), Handbook of Criminal Investigation. Cullompton, Willan Publishing. (2007).

Tags: , Robin Williams

The Problem of Dust: Forensic Investigation as Practical Action

R. Williams. “The Problem of Dust: Forensic Investigation as Practical Action”, in D. Francis & S. Hester (Eds), Orders of Ordinary Action. London, Ashgate. (2007).

Tags: , Robin Williams

Sociology, Ethics, and the Priority of the Particular: learning from a case study of genetic deliberations

E. Haimes & R. Williams. British Journal of Sociology, 58, pp. 457-476. (2007).

Abstract

There are growing debates about the relationship between the two disciplines of sociology and ethics, particularly as they each become increasingly involved in research and policy formation on the life sciences, especially genetics. Much of this debate has been highly abstract, often stipulating the seemingly different character of the two disciplines and speculating on their theoretical potential–or lack thereof–for future collaborative work. This article uses an existing collaboration between a sociologist and an ethicist, on a study of participation in genetic databases, to explore some of the challenges, for both disciplines, of working together. Building upon this case study, we examine the suggestion that the Aristotelian concept of ‘phronesis’ provides the grounds for establishing one possible theoretical framework with which the disciplines can be bridged. Further exploration of this approach leads to suggestions for ways of thinking about the apparently fundamental divides between the disciplines and for ways of adding to notions of a ‘public sociology’.

Tags: , Robin Williams

Internationalising New Technologies of Crime Control: Forensic DNA Databasing and Datasharing in the European Union

P. Johnson & R. Williams. Policing and Society, 17(2), pp. 103-118. (2007).

Abstract

The use of DNA profiling in support of criminal investigations by police forces across the world has expanded remarkably during the last decade. The effectiveness of the world’s first national DNA database – the National DNA Database of England & Wales – has subsequently influenced both police and legislative authorities in many other criminal jurisdictions to establish (or seek to establish) equivalent databases. The automated comparison of DNA profiles obtained from scenes of crime with those obtained from individuals suspected of involvement in criminal activities is regarded by many observers as the most important development in investigative technology since the adoption of fingerprint comparison early in the last century. This paper describes some recent and significant efforts to influence both the growth of national DNA databases, and also to extend the exchange of genetic information in support of trans-national policing. Some of the legal, policy and ethical issues that arise from these efforts are outlined and discussed.

Tags: , Robin Williams

European securitization and biometric identification: the uses of genetic profiling

P. Johnson & R. Williams. Annals of the Italian National Institute of Health, 43(1), pp. 36-43. (2007).

Abstract

The recent loss of confidence in textual and verbal methods for validating the identity claims of individual subjects has resulted in growing interest in the use of biometric technologies to establish corporeal uniqueness. Once established, this foundational certainty allows changing biographies and shifting category memberships to be anchored to unchanging bodily surfaces, forms or features. One significant source for this growth has been the “securitization” agendas of nation states that attempt the greater control and monitoring of population movement across geographical borders. Among the wide variety of available biometric schemes, DNA profiling is regarded as a key method for discerning and recording embodied individuality. This paper discusses the current limitations on the use of DNA profiling in civil identification practices and speculates on future uses of the technology with regard to its interoperability with other biometric databasing systems.

Tags: , Robin Williams

An investigation into the use of calculating the first derivative of absorbance spectras as a tool for forensic fibre analysis

K. Wiggins, R. Palmer, W. Hutchinson & P. Drummond. Science & Justice, 47(1), pp.9-18. (2007)

Abstract

A range of fibre samples was measured using J&M MSP400 and J&M MSP800 microspectrophotometers across the visible and UV/visible wavelength ranges respectively. The first derivative of the absorbance spectra was then calculated and studied. When the absorbance spectra produced for some samples were broad and featureless, the first derivative spectra provided more points of comparison that facilitated discrimination. For many of the samples, calculating the first derivative did not result in any additional discrimination due to the high number of points of comparison present in the absorbance spectra. However, for the samples that exhibited a high level of intra-sample colour variation (e.g. through uneven dye uptake common in cotton and wool, etc.), which was evident in the absorbance spectra, the associated first derivative spectra highlighted this variation between the fibres and could potentially have resulted in false exclusions. The results show that whilst calculating first derivative can be a useful aid in the comparison of spectra, a high degree of caution is required when applying this method to fibres which exhibit a large intra-sample variation in colour.

Tags: , Ray Palmer

Investigation into the usefulness of DNA profiling earprints

E.M.A. Graham, V.L. Bowyer, V.J. Martin & G.N. Rutty. Science & Justice, 47(1), pp. 155-159. (2007).

Abstract

DNA profiling of biological trace evidence has been used for many years. The application of this technique specifically to the DNA profiling of earprints has not to date been thoroughly investigated. This report presents the results of 60 earprints collected from three healthy adult volunteers under controlled laboratory conditions. DNA profile analysis revealed that high levels of non-donor alleles are observed when earprints are collected for DNA profiling. The source of these non-donor alleles is investigated and the impact that their presence within the profile may have on the use of this technique is discussed.

Tags: , Eleanor Graham

Can post-mortem blood be used for DNA STR profiling after peri-mortem blood transfusion?

E.M.A Graham, M. Tsokos & G.N. Rutty. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 121(1), pp.18-23. (2007).

Abstract

The question of whether blood transfusions can affect DNA profiling is still a contentious issue throughout the forensic community. It is hypothesised that donor leucocytes present in the administered blood will be detected upon examination of recipient blood. In order to resolve this issue, a selection of theoretical experiments were carried out to determine how much donor DNA must be present for its detection in blood components. Five casework examples of material collected from individuals after massive transfusion, including a case of whole organ transplantation, were also investigated. The results indicated that filtration processes used during blood production do not allow the passage of enough donor leucocytes for detection using current forensic profiling techniques. No evidence of secondary profile alleles were found in any case, indicating that peri-mortem blood transfusion does not affect DNA profiling.

Tags: , Eleanor Graham

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