Cold Hits, Warm Hits and Hot Misses: Forensic DNA and Crime Investigation in the United Kingdom and Elsewhere

Robin Williams, University of Durham

The development and use of DNA profiling and databasing in criminal investigation has been described as the greatest advance in forensic science since the introduction of fingerprinting in the early 20th Century. The UK National DNA Database is often depicted as the most significant innovation in what is now a world-wide process of technology diffusion. However the dominant framework for the analysis of police users of this new technology in the UK has been provided by the current government's public policy reform programme, and in particular, the rhetoric of organisational accountability and cost effectiveness central to that programme. This paper suggests the usefulness of a more sociologically informed analysis of the use of DNA profiling and the NDNAD. This comprises the attempt to understand the conduct of criminal investigations as constituted in and through the work-oriented interactions amongst a range of individuals and groups and also between such individuals and crime scene circumstances and material artefacts.

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Updated 05/20/2006