Public/Family Concerns for Providing DNA in Missing Persons Cases: Paper 2: The Main Concerns Raised and Implications for Policing Policy

Kate Russell, Sally Kelty, Nathan Scudder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identification of unidentified human remains, and long-term missing persons (LTMP) is imperative, allowing for missing persons to be reunited with their families, which could provide closure to families experiencing ongoing ambiguity surrounding the situation. However, identification remains problematic for several reasons, including the absence of DNA provision in the investigation. The research reported here is the second in a two-part series exploring public/family support for providing DNA in LTMP cases. In the first study, quantitative results showed that participants had concerns when asked if they thought there would be implications for a person providing DNA to police in LTMP cases. The aim of this second study was to explore further using qualitative methods the nuances and themes underpinning concerns for providing DNA in LTMP cases. Participants described their concerns about providing DNA in four hypothetical LTMP case scenarios (a child, an adult with dementia, a runaway 19-year-old adolescent, and an estranged adult). Through thematic content analysis, ten themes were identified. Nine themes run across all four LTMP case scenarios. The tenth theme was only observed in two scenarios; cases involving adolescents with a history of runaway, and in cases involving adults estranged from their family. Results showed public concerns differed according to LTMP case circumstances. Key findings point to public education about how DNA is used in LTMP investigations, the applicable legislation relating to police use of DNA in investigations and increasing public awareness around the benefits of DNA use in LTMP investigations. Potentional policy options are discussed that could guide the future development of nuanced police practice in different types of LTMP cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-679
Number of pages9
JournalScience and Justice - Journal of the Forensic Science Society
Issue number6
Early online date25 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


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