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29 May 15

Rapid DNA profiling will transform major crime investigations

Police Oracle has featured Key Forensic Services (KFS) and Rapid HIT in a recent article published on the police industry news site. Quoting Paul Hackett, KFS Group Managing Director, the article identifies how this revolutionary DNA testing technology can transform how police forces utilise DNA evidence.

Boss of company working with police forces to use new device says technology will be game changer.

Ways in which police investigate murders and stranger rapes are set to be radically transformed by technology that allows DNA profiles to be generated from swabs and other samples “in hours not days”.

A hi-tech machine called the Rapid Hit Human DNA Identification System, produced by American company IntegenX, is being utilised by UK-based firm Key Forensic Services to provide what the company says is the first ever “while you wait” genetic profiling service.

By reducing the time period in which a profile compatible with the National DNA Database can be generated, savings will be able to be made in incident rooms.

Time spent by officers conducting door-to-door inquiries as part of any investigation will be shortened because suspects can be eliminated or pinpointed faster.

“The timeframes to detect an offender in a stranger rape or homicide where foreign body fluids are found at the scene becomes hours not days,” Key Forensic Services’ Managing Director Paul Hackett told PoliceOracle.com. “It is utterly transformational.

"You can ask police officers and SIOs what they would do if I gave you a [DNA profile] match in two hours time rather than two days and they can all work through the hypothetical benefits of that scenario, but now we are able to do this for real.”

Rapid DNA technology has reportedly led to unease in some quarters that civil liberties could be infringed, but Mr Hackett has staunchly defended it.

In a blog post last month, he wrote: “As a member of the public, I am much more interested in the ability of our police officers to catch murderers and rapists not within days or weeks, but within hours of committing an offence."

He added: “Imagine if any person arrested for an offence could have their identity checked and have their DNA profile checked against the National DNA Database before they are released.

“There would no longer be a need to bail a person whilst the arresting officers wait for the lab to tell them the person they had in custody a few days ago was actually wanted for a serious crime."

Mr Hackett told PoliceOracle.com: “The conversations I’ve had with police forces for the last three years have revolved around the concept of going to a scene finding some blood at that scene and being able to determine in two hours whose blood that belongs to, knowing in a stranger rape the name of the potential perpetrator in two or three hours, knowing in custody whether that person is wanted for an outstanding crime before they are bailed.

"The guilty plea rate should rocket.”

With the right permissions in place, portable rapid DNA profiling machines could in future even be put directly into the hands of police to use, without the need for any involvement from external scientists or companies - an approach advocated by some experts.

Such technological advancements have been made possible by the advent of what is known as DNA-17, a profiling methodology which allows for more comprehensive information to be gleaned from human tissue samples.

DNA-17 has also resulted in successes in cold case investigations such as North Yorkshire Police’s announcement earlier this year that it had solved a 25-year old mystery by identifying a body found in Scarborough harbour as that of a missing man, David Dawes.

Digital evidence expert John Kennedy, who also works for Key Forensic Services, said: “It [rapid hit technology] is revolutionary. It’s the biggest advance in DNA work since DNA profiling was first introduced really.

He added: “It’s also important to point out that in major crime investigations this will allow suspects to be eliminated quickly where there is no match.”

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