19 Apr


Familial searching
Craig Harman was the first person to be convicted of an offence following a link between a sample taken from a scene and a relative of the perpetrator. In March 2003, Craig Harman, then 19, was walking over a footbridge spanning the M3 motorway to the west of London when he dropped a brick onto passing traffic. The brick struck and broke the windscreen of a lorry, causing a fatal injury to the driver. The brick was examined for the presence of biological material, and fingerprints, and a DNA profile obtained. The DNA profile did not match in full with any person on the NDNAD but 16 of the 20 alleles matched a genetic relative of Craig Harman. A separate match between the sample obtained from the brick and a sample taken from Craig Harman after he was linked to the crime through the database resulted in a match and Craig Harman pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Cold cases
Since the advent of PCR-based techniques it is now possible to obtain DNA profiles from old case samples. The application of low copy number (LCN) PCR has further increased the chance of obtaining DNA profiles from highly degraded material. Cases, such as those of murder, that have remained open from dates prior to the introduction of DNA typing can now be re-examined using either standard DNA testing or LCN in combination with the NDNAD. The current technology has allowed numerous cases to result in a conviction and therefore closure.

Cold cases
In 1969 Roy Tutill was a 14-year-old boy whose body was found in woodland near Leather head. He had been sexually as saulted and strangled. Sample scollected from the body and the clothing of Roy Tutill were examined but blood group testing failed to give any satisfactory results. In 2001 the UK FSS retested the medical swab extracts using SGM Plus and producedapartialDNAprofilethatwascomparedtotheNDNAD.TheDNAprofile matched that taken from a Mr Brian Field who, 2 years earlier, had been stopped by police on a drink-driving offence and had donated a DNA profile. Further work was performed by the UK FSS on samples from the trousers of Roy Tutill that had been kept in the freezer and this gave a full DNA profile that matched Field. Field denied the charges at his first court appearance but pleaded guilty to murder when he appeared at the Old Bailey in November 2001.

Caution must be excercised when examining samples collected by crime scene op- erators prior to the advent of PCR-based techniques as it is unlikely that those handling the items will have taken the standard precautions to minimize contamination that are now standard practice.

International situation
Following the success of the operation in the UK, other countries developed their own DNA databases. For many countries there was a need to enact special legislation leading to delays in the implementation of DNA databases [3]. New Zealand implemented a DNA database in 1996 along similar lines to that of the UK. The population is significantly smaller but as a percentage of the popula- tion New Zealand is second only to the UK in terms of the number of DNA profiles held on its database. Australia and South Africa were also rapid in developing DNA databases. In mainland Europe, almost all countries have established DNA databases although allarelimitedincomparisontotheUKversion.TheNetherlandsandAustriaestablished their version of a DNA database in 1997, with Germany following one year later and Finland and Norway in 1999 [5]. Two countries in the Middle East, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are both currently developing plans that would see the entire population analysed and placed on a DNA database.

US DNA database
The US Army established a database of their own in 1992 to identify missing persons in operation Desert Storm and this experience helped to pave the way for a national database within the US. In 1994 the US congress passed the DNA Identification Act (Public Law 103 322) which enabled the establishment of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The CODIS, which is the federally held DNA database, has expanded very quickly and comprises the National DNA Index System (NDIS), the State DNA Index System (SDIS) and the Local DNA Index System (LDIS). The information about each sample that is loaded onto the CODIS database includes a laboratory identifier, a specimen identifier, information to classify and review the integrity of the DNA record, and the DNA profile itself. CODIS links local, state and federal crime laboratories. The FBI selected 13 STR loci (CODIS loci) for developing the database. Like the UK NDNAD there are two main segments called ‘indices’ of CODIS:

The Forensic Index contains DNA profiles from crime scene samples.

The Offender Index contains DNA profiles of individuals convicted of certain categories of violent crime, though now many states are expanding their databases and are profiling persons arrested for all felonies.

Other CODIS indices are:

unidentified human remains;
relatives of missing persons.

All 50 US states now have databases of which only 13 obtain DNA samples for databas-ing for all felonies. At the moment there are about 180 DNA laboratories around the USA that are designated and accredited as CODIS laboratories. These laboratories are validated according to the standards of FBI and are authorized to submit the DNA profile information into CODIS.

The situation in the US as of late 2006 is:
total number of profiles: 3676971
total forensic profiles: 148068
total convicted offender profiles: 3528903

When compared with the UK, the USA is a much larger jurisdiction but due to lack of funding, coherent structure and variable legal approaches, there are lengthy de- lays in DNA profiling of casework samples that has led to massive backlogs. The President of the USA announced the ‘President’s DNA Initiative’ in 2003 in order to enhance and streamline the use of DNA as a forensic tool and also signed an act to enhance the facilities for DNA databasing [4]. The main aims of this initiative are to clear the backlogs quickly and also to improve the capacity of the forensic laboratories for databasing the samples besides promoting research and development in the field.

Cross-border databases
Criminals tend to operate in their own country but there are circumstances when crimes will be committed in more that one country. In order for criminal databases to be effec- tive in these circumstances there is a need to share data. Interpol has been instrumental in facilitating cross-border comparisons of DNA profiles. The STR loci commonly used in the forensic community were combined to make the Interpol Standard Set of Loci (ISSOL); these have since been expanded from seven loci to ten loci [6]. Other orga- nizations, such as the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP), are working towards the standardization of DNA profiling such that an organization in one country will be able to access DNA data in the database of another country. The biggest obstacle to cross-border data sharing is now political rather than technical.

WWW resources
Interpol (DNA front page):
Federal Bureau of Investigation (CODIS Information):

Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland: (National
DNA Database report):
GeneWatch UK:

1. Werrett, D.J. (1997) The National DNA Database. Forensic Science International 88, 33-42.
2. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. (2006) The National DNA Database.
3. Harbison, S.A. et al. (2001) The New Zealand DNA databank: its development and significance as a crime solving tool. Science and Justice 41, 33-37.
4. President’s DNA Initiative. Advancing justice Through DNA Technology. (Vol. 2007)
5. Schneider,P.M.and Martin,P.D.(2001) Criminal DNA databases: the European situation. Forensic Science International 119, 232-238.
6. Gill, P. et al. (2006) The evolution of DNA databases – Recommendations for new European STR loci. Forensic Science International 156, 242-244.

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