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Use of DNA Profiles for Investigation Using a Simulated National DNA Database: Part II. Statistical and Ethical Considerations on Familial Searching

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Genetics Volume: 4 Issue: 5 Dated: October 2010 Pages: 316-322
T. Hicks; F. Taroni; J. Curran; J. Buckleton; V. Castella; O. Ribaux
Date Published
October 2010
7 pages

This study examined the use of profiles of siblings to search national DNA databases as an effective investigative technique.


Familial searching consists of searching for a full profile left at a crime scene in a National DNA Database (NDNAD). In this paper, the authors are interested in the circumstance where no full match is returned, but a partial match is found between a database member's profile and the crime stain. Because close relatives share more of their DNA than unrelated persons, this partial match may indicate that the crime stain was left by a close relative of the person with whom the partial match was found. This approach has successfully solved important crimes in the United Kingdom and the United States. In a previous paper, a model, which takes into account substructure and siblings, was used to simulate a NDNAD [1]. In this paper, the authors used this model to test the usefulness of familial searching and offer guidelines for pre-assessment of the cases based on the likelihood ratio. Siblings of "persons" present in the simulated Swiss NDNAD were created. These profiles (N=10,000) were used as traces and were then compared to the whole database (N=100,000). The statistical results obtained show that the technique has great potential confirming the findings of previous studies. However, effectiveness of the technique is only one part of the story. Familial searching has juridical and ethical aspects that should not be ignored. In Switzerland for example, there are no specific guidelines to the legality or otherwise of familial searching. This article both presents statistical results, and addresses criminological and civil liberties aspects to take into account risks and benefits of familial searching. Figures, tables, and references (Published Abstract)

Date Published: October 1, 2010