DNA fingerprinting was invented here at the University of Leicester by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys in 1984. It was first used as evidence in 1987, when baker Colin Pitchfork was the first criminal caught using DNA fingerprinting in Leicester. It was also used to clear the original suspect Richard Buckland.
Uses of DNA Fingerprinting
DNA fingerprints are useful in several applications of human health care research, as well as in the justice system.
- Biological evidence
- Wildlife forensics
- Establishment of paternity
- Person identification
- Diagnosis of inherited disorders
- Developing cures for inherited disorders
The United Kingdom National DNA Database (NDNAD)
The UK NDAD a national DNA Database set up in 1995. At the end of 2005, it carried the profiles of around 3.1 million people, over 585,000 of them taken from children aged under 16. At the end of 2006, this figure had risen to more than four million records, making it the world's biggest DNA database at the time. The database, which grows by 30,000 samples each month, is populated by samples recovered from crime scenes and taken from police suspects and (in England and Wales) anyone arrested and detained at a police station, even if they are not subsequently charged with an offence.
The UK NDNAD is run by the Forensic Science Service (FSS), under contract to the Home Office.
Census data and Home Office statistics indicate that almost 40% of black men have their DNA profile on the database compared to 13% of Asian men and 9% of white men.
Controversy and the United Kingdom National DNA Database
The use of the database for genetic research without consent has been controversial, as has the storage of DNA samples and sensitive information by the commercial companies which analyse them for the police.
Given the privacy issues, but set against the usefulness of the database in identifying offenders, some have argued for a system whereby the encrypted data associated with a sample is held by a third, trusted, party and is only revealed if a crime scene sample is found to contain that DNA. Such an approach has been advocated by Prof. Sir Alec Jeffreys.
Others have argued that there should be time limits on how long DNA profiles can be retained on the Database, except for people convicted of serious violent or sexual offences. GeneWatch UK has launched a campaign calling on people to reclaim their DNA if they have not been charged or convicted of a serious offence, and has called for more safeguards to prevent misuse of the database. The Human Genetics Commission has argued that individuals' DNA samples should be destroyed after the DNA profiles used for identification purposes have been obtained.
In May 2009, Britain bowed to a court ruling and promised to remove the DNA records of hundreds of thousands of innocent people from the NDNAD - but many will have to wait up to 12 years for their details to be deleted. People arrested on suspicion of minor offenses, such as shoplifting or public drunkenness, will have their DNA profiles held for six years even if they are not charged. The graph depicts the DNA of under 18's stored on the the UK NDNAD (source: HANSARD).
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