Legal perceptions of forensic DNA profiling part I: a review of the legal literature.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Forensic Sci Int, 2005, 155 (1), pp. 51 - 60
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A forensic biologist is usually involved in the criminal justice system process somewhere between the police and the legal system, interacting in a practical context regularly and extensively with both. Forensic DNA research and development commonly involves initiatives that encroach into the neighbouring domains of the law enforcement or legal agencies. Despite this level of association, establishing meaningful cross-disciplinary communication and understanding within the justice system remains a challenge. As an example, there is an abundance of literature relating to forensic DNA profiling in legal and criminological periodicals. Such journals are perhaps outside the regular reading of forensic scientists and much of the legal discussion appears to go unnoticed. This situation is understandable; however, it is also undesirable particularly as forensic DNA developments are intertwined with significant changes in legislation and contentious issues of privacy, civil liberty and social justice. This paper attempts to address this shortcoming directly by summarising - from the viewpoint of a forensic scientist - some of the discussion in the legal literature. In particular the review focuses on discussion raising ideological and ethical concerns. Awareness of these views is of relevance to forensic science. It assists us to accurately place DNA evidence into context and to develop its role in achieving the broader criminal justice system objectives. Understanding the discussion also provides a way to enter the debate and communicate at an appropriate level the true potential of DNA to the legal community.
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