Legal and law enforcement implications of massively parallel sequencing and forensic genomics

  • Nathan Scudder

Student thesis: By Publication


Advances in genomic technology in recent years have given law enforcement a more cost-effective means to access genome sequencing capabilities. These capabilities build on existing law enforcement DNA databases by allowing for prediction of physical characteristics or the bio-geographical ancestry of the donor of genetic material. Recent developments also allow genetic profiles from crime scene samples or from unidentified human remains to be uploaded to public genetic databases to be compared against millions of other profiles voluntarily submitted by individuals. The use of forensic genomics raises issues of individual and family privacy. It opens up the potential to exploit health predictive information in DNA or for such data to be released into the public domain. In deciding on the best policy response, it is important to address issues of public trust and proportionality. These new capabilities also draw on an intelligence paradigm and are best viewed in the context of a toolkit for human identification. This requires consideration of the training and governance requirements for deploying this capability. The widespread availability of public online datasets may allow forensic genomics to extend into the private and non-profit sector. To an extent, this has happened already. The policy implications of this occurring will be explored. This research proposes that forensic genomic capabilities, when used for law enforcement or national security intelligence purposes, be part of a multidisciplinary system, with underpinning quality and training standards and potential regulatory controls. Such a framework must also sit within a broader privacy framework consistent with the expanding use of genomics in diagnostic medicine and recreational genealogy.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJames Robertson (Supervisor), Tamsin Kelly (Supervisor), Dennis Mcnevin (Supervisor) & Sally Kelty (Supervisor)

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