Marketised forensic DNA-profiling in England and Wales

  • Karen Richmond

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Forensic science provision in the United Kingdom has undergone significant, though uneven, development during the past decade. In England and Wales, forensic expertise is now delivered by way of a commercial market, whilst similar provision in Scotland, and Northern Ireland, remains within the public sector. As a result of marketisation, police forces (and other forensic ‘customers’) have become increasingly concerned with measuring economic value, whilst forensic science providers have been required to maintain an efficient, high-quality service that conforms to the overarching regulations. Early studies suggest that these structural, and regulatory, developments have had a marked impact upon the field of forensic DNA analysis, and may affect the way in which expert DNA evidence is constructed. This empirical research project seeks to assess the impact that these public policy, and organizational, developments, have had on the perspectives of forensic DNA-profiling experts. The project focuses on the perceived links between governance structures and the performance of forensic expertise, through the construction of analytical, and evaluative, reports. The study also considers the reported impacts of overarching regulatory incursions. The purpose of this unique study is to gain a clearer understanding of the ways in which forensic DNA profilers have responded to policy-driven structural changes, and to assess the perceived effects of resulting adaptations. The project has uncovered valuable data, demonstrating that respondents regard DNA reporting and evaluation in relation to serious crime as conforming to the highest scientific standards. However, the ways in which ‘volume’ crime cases are perceived to have been dealt with may raise more pressing questions. Indeed, certain trends are identified within the respondent’s testimony, based upon their experiences of the forensic market, which may raise concerns. Particular developments (such as the perception of case fragmentation and de-skilling, and concerns relating to the production of streamlined reports) could - if accurate - impact on the quality of expert opinion, and may potentially subvert the courts’ ability to arrive at sound determinations on questions of fact.
Date of Award24 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorJane Scoular (Supervisor) & Alan Paterson (Supervisor)

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