Within this paper the author will explain what DNA is, describe how it used and discuss the ethical issues surrounding the idea of having a national database.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the hereditary material in all humans and almost all other living organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA however no two people have the same DNA make-up. Most DNA can be found in a cell nucleus. (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/dna)
DNA was first discovered in 1892 but wasn’t used in criminal investigations until a murder inquiry of two young girls between 1983 and 1986 which Professor Alec Jeffreys used DNA profiling to convict suspect Colin Pitchfork in 1988.
Only one-tenth of a single percent of DNA differs from one person to the next. Scientists or forensic profilers can use this to generate a DNA profile of an individual using samples from blood, bone (marrow), hair, semen and other body fluids and tissues.
In 1984 a very popular figure of the party Greenpeace Hilda Murrell was murdered in Shrewsbury. She had been stabbed, sexually abused and kidnapped before being left to die in a Shropshire wood of hypothermia along with her other injuries.
She was due to give evidence at a public inquiry about a proposed nuclear reactor. Also her nephew played a crucial part in the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands war. This prompted a rash of conspiracy theories pointing the finger at British Intelligence Services looking for secret documents.
West Mercia Police spent a lot of time, effort and money on investigating this case due to the high profile nature of it however no suspect could be found. This warranted more calls that she had been murdered by British Intelligence to the point that even books and documentaries were made of the murder.
In 2002 West Mercia Police detectives re-opened the case with the view of re-examining statements, lines of enquiry and exhibits. One of these exhibits was a semen stained tissue found in Ms Murrell’s house and from a stain on her underwear they could match the DNA to a suspect.
The suspect had provided a sample for a petty crime however with the advantage of a National Database he could be singled out in 2005 as 37 year old Steven George.
With modern DNA techniques and a database back in the 1980’s the crime could have been solved much more quickly with less time and money being spent. A murderer was also at large for over 20 years.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 stated that anyone arrested with England and Wales can have DNA samples taken and put on to the database for 100 years.(Criminal Justice Act 2003). There are currently 4 million samples on the database, this is only 10% of the population within the United Kingdom. (National DNA Database Annual Report 2005-6).
This leads the author to look at the issues behind having a national database for every member of the population in the United Kingdom with the view to saving police time and money.
“We have a situation where if you happen to have been in the hands of the police then your DNA is on permanent record. If you haven't, it isn't.” (Lord ~Justice Sedley).
A DNA database covering the whole of the UK and visitors would help save police time and clear up crimes faster than current practice. Also by having a faster clear up rate we would not have offenders still at large on the streets possibly creating more of a danger to the public.
Those who done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law have nothing to fear and should be reassured that if there were a database a suspect can be easily identified.
Statistics on the current database for males:
White Europeans – 76% Afro–Caribbean – 7% Asian – 5% Arab 1% Dark skinned Europeans – 2% Unknown – 9%
(National DNA Database Annual Report 2005-6)
Current practice is unfair going by our current system ethnic minorities are over represented which could possibly create an anti-police feeling. Two in…