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‘The advent of DNA evidence has been the single biggest positive advance in criminal legal process since the beginnings of forensic science.’

‘The advent of DNA evidence has been the single biggest positive advance in criminal legal process since the beginnings of forensic science.’

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Paul McParland. Originally submitted for LLB (Hons) with Criminology (P/T) at University of Ulster, with lecturer Dr. Eugene McNamee in the category of Law
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Paul McParland. Originally submitted for LLB (Hons) with Criminology (P/T) at University of Ulster, with lecturer Dr. Eugene McNamee in the category of Law

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
‘The advent of DNA evidence has been the single biggest positive advance incriminal legal process since the beginnings of forensic science.’21
st
April 2009
"It was a 'eureka!' moment. Standing in front of this picture in the darkroom,my life took a complete turn. We could immediately see the potential for forensic investigations…”
Sir Alec Jeffreys – 4
th
February 2004
1
 
ABSTRACTKeywords
- Forensic Science - DNA - Expert Evidence - Low Copy Number - DatabaseThis work examines the development of DNA evidence within the context of forensic science,covering its discovery, expansion and concomitant legal incorporation from the 1980’s to the present. The project aims to dispel misconceptions about the ‘infallibility’ of DNA science,identifying legal challenges within the criminal trial process. Reviews
 R v Sean Hoey
1
and LowCopy Number DNA. It also details policy and law developments since then; the broadeimplications of the admissibility of DNA “expert” evidence and; difficulties in assessing witnesscredibility. The review evaluates the impact, advantages and problems associated with the UK DNA Database.
1
[2007] NICC 49.
2
 
The origins of forensic science are most closely associated with fingerprinting, first advocated byDr Francis Galton in 1892.
2
In 1905, Alfred and Ernest Stratton became the first persons convictedfor murder using fingerprint evidence (
dactyloscopy
), a case now generally regarded as the birth of forensic science.
3
 Since then all manner of forensic
 sciences
have developed
4
, many based on the principle postulated by Edmund Locard, that
every contact leaves a trace
.
5
 The well-founded rule against opinionevidence and the exception granted to qualified experts to proffer opinion where the jury or courtlacks knowledge or expertise expressly forbids usurpation of the role of the ‘tribunal of fact’.
6 
Locard reminds us, it is not the scientist’s job to assume the jury’s role,
 L'indice doit êtreinterpreté
” (Evidence must be interpreted).
7
 For the best part of a century, fingerprinting ruled supreme as the ‘gold standard’ of forensicidentification.
8
 Then in 1984, Dr. Alex Jeffreys, a research geneticist at Leicester University,discovered patterns in DNA capable of distinguishing different humans
9
. His team later identifiedDNA profiles from body fluids and tissue that were unique to an individual (except identical twins).His findings
had direct applicability to criminal identification and became known as ‘DNAfingerprinting’, an homage to its progenitor but criticised for ‘piggy-backing’ on the trust placed infingerprints.
 So what is the DNA of DNA?
(deoxyribonucleic acid): -
 DNA is the stuff that genes are made of…Genes carry biological information… the characteristicsof living things and is passed down the generations… DNA is just a chemical - not a more complex
2
 
F. Galton FRCS,
 Fingerprints
, MacMillan and Co, London, 1892.
3
C. Beavan,
 Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science
. NewYork: Hyperion, 2001. See also C. Beavan,
 Fingerprints
, London, Fourth Estate, 2003.
4
Sweet and Maxwell,
The Expert Witness Directory 2009
, Sweet and Maxwell, London, 2008
5
Delivered at the University of Lyon, France 1910. See also B. McConnell, A Colonial Inheritance,
 New Law Journal 
,150: October 2000, p. 1552
6
A. Keane,
The Modern Law of Evidence
(7th edn.), Oxford University Press, Clarendon, 2008, p. 528; see also R.Emson,
 Evidence
, Palgrave MacMillan Law Masters, Basingtoke, 2006, p. 383
7
 
E. Locard,
 
(1940)
 L'enqute Criminelle. Traité de criminalistique.
Tome septième, Livre VIII Desvigne, Lyon, 1940, p.187
.
8
 
Cf 
.
 McKie v Strathclyde Joint Police Board 
. 2004 SLT 982). See also P. Palma, Fingerprint mismatch puzzle stillunsolved,
The Malaysia Star 
, 26th May 2007.
 
http://www.thedailystar.net/2007/05/26/d70526012012.htm accessed23rd April 2009 and D.H. Kaye, Questioning a Courtroom Proof of the Uniqueness of Fingerprints.
 International Statistical Review
, 71(3): 2003.
9
G. Newton,
 Discovering DNA Fingerprinting 
, Wellcome Trust, London, 2004. See: -http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_wtd020877.html
10
A.J.
Jeffreys, V. Wilson and S.L. Thien, Individual-specific 'fingerprints' of human DNA.
 Nature
316 (6023): 4
th
July 1985: p. 76-9
11
From a speech made by Dr. Carole McCartney BA(Hons), MA (Bond), PhD (Leeds), Lecturer in Criminal Justice,University of Leeds at a DNA Conference held by McKay Law, Central London, 25th February 2009.
12
H.C.Lee and F. Tirnady,
 Blood Evidence: How DNA is revolutionising the way we solve crimes
, Perseus Publishing,Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003.
3

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