21 December 2009

Court backs tests of minute DNA

DNA testing can help the Crown Prosecution Service build up its cases



By Michael Buchanan

A controversial technique for analysing minute amounts of DNA has been backed by the Court of Appeal.

The court said challenges to the science behind Low Copy Number (LCN) DNA testing should no longer be permitted in most trials.

The Forensic Science Service, which has been routinely using LCN DNA testing in cases since 1999, welcomed the ruling.

It came as the court rejected an appeal from brothers Terry and David Reed who were convicted of murder in 2007.

DNA testing has been criticised by some scientists for being unreliable.

But a spokeswoman for the FSS, which analyses evidence from crime scenes, said the judgement endorsed the work the FSS had done in developing and improving LCN DNA over the past decade.

Temporary suspension

The Reed brothers, of Easton, near Middlesbrough, were convicted of the murder of Peter Hoe.

The forensic scientist in their August 2007 case at Teesside Crown Court had used LCN testing on two pieces of plastic fragments found at the murder scene.


David and Terry Reed: DNA evidence was 'critical' in the conviction of David and Terry Reed

But following their conviction, a judge in Northern Ireland, hearing a case against a man charged with the Omagh bombing, said the LCN technique had questions about its validity as an evidential tool.

That led to its temporary suspension as the Home Office carried out a review of its applicability for court purposes.

In early 2008, that review concluded that it was scientifically robust and therefore appropriate for court cases.

The judgment on Monday provides further backing for the technique.

In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeal rejected evidence from Bruce Budowle, a former senior scientist with the FBI.

He told judges that DNA profiles obtained using the LCN method were not of high enough quality to be put before a jury and should only be used to help an investigation.

The Court of Appeal's ruling has been welcomed by the Crown Prosecution Service which said it needs to study the judgment in detail before concluding how it will practically affect cases.

in BBC

“The defence’s successful and skilful assault on the forensic method may be of some assistance to the parents of missing toddler Madeleine McCann. Their legal team will be watching closely to see if LCN DNA as an evidential process is seriously undermined by the Omagh case. The couple became labelled as suspects because of minute traces of their daughter’s DNA were allegedly found in a car they had rented after her disappearance” in the Guardian, December 20 2007

Related
PJ Files: The FSS/Lowe Report

BBC - Open Secrets: Low copy number DNA testing

Crown Prosecutor Service Press Release : Review of the use of Low Copy Number DNA analysis in current cases

DNA test halted after Omagh case, BBC

Team McCann & UK media Spin:

How Portuguese police tried to force Gerry to confess with a DNA trap, Telegraph

Kate and Gerry McCann: Beyond the smears, Times Online 

DNA test could find kidnapper, Belfast Telegraph

PDF files:
Science behind the technique - DNA Low Copy Number, FSS

FSS press release on the Omagh bomb trial




12 comments:

  1. This is great news.
    Now all we need is some DNA results in the case that actually mean something and the case is solved.

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  2. Whilst this is good news, would the FSS be willing to re-test the Maddie samples assuming they haven't destroyed the lot? I so hope the PJ retained samples.

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  3. How inconvenient for the Macs. Still I am sure any DNA evidence will be inconclusive or have been lost or destroyed, the usual spin or this ruling will not apply to this case blah,blah. The FSS has a cloud over it as far as I am concerned, along with the Home Office, LP and all the other agencies who helped to cover up the case. So do not hold your breath.

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  4. This ruling is good news.

    Now all that's needed is for the implementation of the 'new' forensic tool that separates mixed samples, which was ready for use almost TWO YEARS AGO!


    Daily Mail
    Last updated at 14:09 23 January 2008

    'Nearly here at last, the DNA technique that could catch out 6,000 more criminals a year'

    The new technology will allow forensics specialists to unravel mixed and previously unusable genetic samples

    Revolutionary DNA technology which could catch thousands more criminals every year is finally set to be cleared for use by police.

    DNA boost - which allows scientists to unravel mixed and previously unusable genetic samples - was hailed for its crime-fighting potential by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006.

    (Snipped - full article in link below)

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-509909/Nearly-DNA-technique-catch-6-000-criminals-year.html

    This was being hailed as a major breakthrough in forensic science but it was being held up (IMO) for political reasons. Call me suspicious if you like but I'm still wondering if the real reason for the delay has its roots in the McCann case?

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  5. I find the FSS laboratory's conduct in this case questionable, I don't trust the FSS. The forensic tests should have been done in Portugal. I found it odd that one of the McCann detectives stated that he was trying to get a hold of samples kept by the PJ for LCN testing, since no LCN testing had been done in the Madeleine case. Could it be that the PJ kept some samples with them?

    Of course the McCann legal team is watching closely, but they obviously will ignore the conclusion that LCN testing is "scientifically robust and therefore appropriate for court cases." Just like any good lawyer, the McCann lawyers will point to anything that furthers its client's case while ignoring or detracting from that which is unfavourable.

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  6. The clock is ticking for the Mccanns. Time is running out.

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  7. guerra, it was the McCanns' chief PI, Dave Edgar, who talked about low copy number DNA in this case, but he seemed unaware of the fact that LCN DNA had already been a feature of the case. He seemed to think LCN DNA might have helped catch the 'abductor', ie the intruder who he believes took Madeleine. He seemed not to have known that the LCN DNA in question had nothing to do with a mythical 'abductor', rather odd for someone who's supposed to know what's in the official case files. However, if he read the comments section of his Belfast Telegraph interview he'll know now.

    I'm glad at least DE is a proponent of this type of DNA as it's undoubtedly 'an amazingly powerful tool' as he so rightly said. As the Belfast Tele article said: 'Dave has seen it work before. His team used it in 2007 to snare killer Stephen Mottram, who stabbed love-rival Andrew Batterton to death in a jealous rage.' He'll know of other cases too, I expect, where LCN DNA was used and just how accurate it is, how it can't be dismissed as unreliable.

    Nice to see the Court of Appeal backing this very useful weapon in the fight against crime.

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  8. The FSS is wholly owned by the Home Office.
    Enough said.

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  9. And the exception is... Mccann's. No any reliable test will be aplied to samples potencially involving that exceptional couple. THIS IS WHAT MADE THEM SUSPECTS even without any forensic tests. WHEN ARE THE BRITISH AUTHORITIES TO UNDERSTAND THAT?

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  10. I don't believe that any media would publish what they published in September if the forensic evidence was inconclusive. How that forensic evidence changed three months after is puzzling.

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  11. Os Funcionarios do FSS sao funcionarios publicos.... " Para bom entendedor, meia palavra basta". Por mais evidentes que sejam os resultados forenses, os relatorios serao sempre o que o poder encomendou. Nenhum tera T..... para denunciar a marosca e por em causa o seu lugar de trabalho e o seu salario. E OS SUPER-HOMENS- ROSA Dos Dois Paises( Clarrie e Socrates) se encarregarao de redigir o texto que melhor lhes convem. Afinal a "Rosa de Hiroshima inglesa" confessou no Dubai, para que e que foi contratado- PARA LIMPAR O NOME DE DOIS PAIS NEGLIGENTES NEM QUE PARA ISSO PRECISE DE CONSPURCAR, MANIPULAR OU CONTROLAR QUALQUER "ENTE" que ouse questionar ou defender uma teoria diferente da "MCCANNARIA".
    Os portugueses residentes, divertiam-se a contar que Portugal era um pais de lendas, com historias tao fantasticas, vindas dos tempos em que a fe e a ingenuidade dos homens explicava quase tudo, pois a Ciencia ainda nem era a Filosofia, quanto mais a Biologia. Assim tivemos Mouras Encantadas, Neve com cheiro a amendoa no Algarve e um D. Sebastiao que ainda hoje esperamos, surja montado num cavalo branco, numa manha de nevoeiro, para nos libertar do inverno que mora em cada um de nos. O "BOM PASTOR CLARRIE" reduziu a zero uma ciencia tao exacta quanto a Biologia, e resolveu voltar ao principio dos tempos e acrescentar as lendas portuguesas mais uma: Maddie. Desapareceu numa noite limpida de Maio e todos sabem, ele tambem, que nao adianta esperar ela nao voltara- Das estrelas so volta quem viaja a bordo de um foguetao. Clarrie, nao percebeu.... Ha sempre um portugues que lhe atira uma pedrita onde ele escorrega o sapatinho.

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  12. Let us pray that the PJ did keep some samples back, if not then all this is worthless, because the FSS certainly will have distroyed what they had, why would they keep anything back knowing that as time goes on they could be asked to re-test, no samples left.......whoops then no re-test!!!!!!!!.

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