The expansion and development of genetic testing means that today anything from paternity DNA testing to relationship tests to forensic tests can be done by analyzing DNA from various samples. Blood, sperm, hair, cigarette ends and a myriad of other alternative DNA sources can all provide genetic analysts with DNA profiles. Because of the easy of genetic profiling, DNA databases are being set up in various countries.
The smallest quantities of DNA can be amplified and replicated so as to have thousand of identical copies which scientists can work on. Thanks to this, countless crimes have been solved as we all unwittingly leave traces of our DNA all over the place; after having licked an envelope, had a shower, and blown our noses to mention just a few. Police have now started to hold records of DNA profiles in what are referred to as DNA databases. If a crime is committed then the DNA found can be matched to the profiles found in the databases and if a match is found then you have the criminal. However, this has sparked a lot of controversy.
Wales and DNA databases
The DNA databases in this part of the UK have added over 4,000 innocent people to its DNA databases. Should these people be in those databases amidst the likes of murderers, thieves and drug dealers? The European Court of Human Rights has declared this in breach of human rights; criminals ok, but innocent people no. But what about when innocent people turn guilty? Would it not be convenient to have a DNA profile ready in the database for DNA forensic experts to compare with that found at the crime scene? The Welsh government is not ready to accept the verdict given by the European court; yet claims it will have the last word. The profiles drawn up by forensic testing have helped convict rapist and serial killers. Many people have not been caught, getting away with the most heinous crimes before the advent of DNA technology.
Dallas, Texas mouth swabs for prostitutes
For some this might be seen as a wise move, perhaps for others as a waste of the states’ money. Prostitutes in Dallas are having their genetic profiles taken to protect them as much as possible against the crime which abound in the prostitution scene; rapes, murders and reports of missing women. This move has been done in joint effort with the FBI to tackle the problem of serial killer that pose as regular clients interested in sex. The DNA programme has still not been implemented and the government plans to introduce it in conjunction with a rehabilitation programme for prostitutes. The police will use mouth swabs as the DNA sampling method as this is the easiest method; it is done by rubbing a rubber tipped applicator inside the prostitute’s mouth and storing this with other key details such as their names and addresses. Controversy has been caused by those who condemn prostitution as a crime versus those who condone prostitution and see it as something that cannot be eradicated but can be controlled.
More issues on databases
Whilst Wales seems to be rather amenable to having its own criminal DNA database, the rest of Europe has not quite warmed up to this idea. However, the European Union has decided to share and exchange the information it has in DNA databases; more shockingly for at least some of us, one government can ask another government to collect DNA profiles from one of its citizens should their DNA profile be required. The treaty has been signed and is known as the Prum Treaty. The issue becomes rather thorny when one thinks that the DNA profiles of the perpetrator of a crime could match closely to one of the relatives on a DNA database. Can this lead to people being wrongly implicated? When DNA is analysed, a number of loci are examined and compared.
Given that we inherit our DNA from our parents and thus, relatives have genetic profiles which approximate each others’, then the DNA found at a crime scene could (although unlikely) match that of for example, the criminal’s brother, sister or other relative. Police in various states have the choice to report partial or familial matches. Familial searching is done deliberately by the police force – a direct and conscious check in databases for genetic relatives of a criminal. Partial matches however, happen by chance when going through the databases and stumbling on a DNA profile belonging to a relative that would suggest the possible involvement of that relative. Some states have decided that for DNA samples to be taken into consideration, they must have a set number of alleles in common.
Whichever the case, there is much controversy around these DNA databases. People feel their privacy is already jeopardized with ever call they make, every credit time they use their credit card, walk in the streets, catch a plane, their every single move is monitored somehow. Having their DNA blueprint lying in archives makes it seem as if we might all be potential criminals; however, let’s not forget, we might also be potential victims. DNA testing is key to solve crime cases but there still need be changes in the laws.