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Scotland to Lead Europe in DNA Technology

Special Reports

Scotland now has the most advanced DNA profiling system in Europe following a £6 million investment in new forensic capability.

Established within the ground-breaking Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh, scientists working at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Forensic Services laboratories are obtaining more DNA profiles from smaller or lower-quality samples than ever before.

The technology now being used in the Gartcosh labs is at the fore-front of DNA testing available across Europe.

Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for ustice, visited SPA Forensic Services laboratories at the Scottish Crime Campus in February 2015 to formally launch the new DNA technology.

Scotland’s DNA24/GlobalFiler technology, provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific based in Paisley, looks at 24 areas of a person’s DNA – a huge step up from the 11 areas that made up previous DNA profiling technology and an advance on the 17 areas which is the European standard.

Michael Matheson MSP, said: “It is fantastic to see Scotland leading the way in this field with the most advanced DNA profiling in Europe, backed by a £6 million investment from the Scottish Government.

“Scotland is getting safer and crime is at a 40-year low but new and innovative technology like DNA24 is crucial to tackling and preventing future crime throughout Scotland and beyond.

“As well as being a vital tool in the armour for tackling organised crime and terrorism, this facility will be invaluable in the investigation of historical ‘cold’ cases, helping bring answers to the families of victims of crime who are still waiting for justice to be served.

“These facilities should also serve as a powerful deterrent for potential criminals too, as our ever more sophisticated systems and technology means our justice agencies are tackling crime head on. There is nowhere for criminals to hide.”

Tom Nelson, Director of SPA Forensic Services, said: “DNA24 provides the criminal justice system in Scotland with the most sensitive and informative DNA profiling results currently possible. It offers a major step forward in enhancing the contribution forensic services can make to the pursuit of justice in Scotland.

“This technology will be particularly invaluable in processing samples for cold cases. The recent successful prosecution in the Worlds End murder trial demonstrates how DNA technology can be vital in getting justice for victims and their families long after the crime has been committed. The detailed analysis offered by DNA24 will be pivotal in processing DNA samples which have been held on file for many years and which are likely to be of poorer quality.

”This technology, powered by the skills and expertise of trained forensic services staff, is an innovative way forward for science in Scotland. However, it will also allow the authorities in Scotland to reach back in time, with the potential to rekindle justice for those who had all but given up hope.”

Deputy Chief Constable, Crime and Operational Support, Iain Livingstone, said: “We are excited by this investment in new DNA technology which will be a crucial tool in our drive to improve the safety and wellbeing of people, places and communities across Scotland. In a perfect world, every crime scene would give us a complete DNA sample each and every time but unfortunately crime scenes do not always give us that luxury and this new technology will be vital in helping us catch more perpetrators of crime. In addition, the ability to now get DNA matches from older or degraded samples is of particular interest to Police Scotland as
it can help us prosecute criminals who may have thought they had gotten away with their crimes.”

DNA 17 to DNA 24

This £6 million investment has included upgrading and validating SPA Forensic Services instrumentation which included DNA profiling instrumentation, analysis and interpretation software packages, the Scottish DNA database, and training staff in interpreting and reporting the more detailed information available.

Increasing the total number of markers in a DNA sample improves distinction between relatives whose DNA samples will be similar and provides a greater chance of finding matches for incomplete profiles lifted from a sample.

Legislative changes across Europe means there is a requirement to harmonise the kits used and, to that end, a European Standard generically known as DNA17 has been adopted across the continent. SPA Forensic Services took the decision to invest in technology which is even more advanced rather than invest in DNA17 now and then upgrade again to DNA24 at a later date.

DNA24/GlobalFiler is currently in use in the forensic labs at the Scottish Crime Campus but it is anticipated it will also be rolled out to all SPA Forensic Services labs by the summer of this year.

The Scottish Crime Campus, Gartcosh includes Police Scotland, the National Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service and the Scottish Police Authority (Forensic Services) who are co-located at the site as part of a co-ordinated, multi -agency approach to help improve the way we share information in order to strengthen the fight against criminal activity.

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