Genetic Information and Crime Investigation: Forensic DNA Profiling and Databasing in Comparative Perspective

Robin Williams, University of Durham

The investigation and prosecution of crime by state agencies in modern society increasingly depend upon scientific advances to expand the collection and analysis of 'contact trace material' recovered by forensic examiners at scenes of crime. Developments in DNA technology constitutes the most recent such advance. This paper considers the history and consequences of two differing understandings of the use of genetic identification for the investigation of crime: genetic identification as 'criminal intelligence' and genetic identification as 'prosecutorial evidence'. Differences in the US and UK use of DNA profiling are described and the developments of the respective national databases (CODIS and NDNAD) are considered. The social, ethical and public policy aspects of the use of such genetic databases - especially their specific contributions to novel forms of bodily surveillance in contemporary society - are outlined and discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006