Accepted paper:

Emerging Forensic Technologies: Rapid DNA solutions in the UK


Dana Wilson-Kovacs (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the expectations surrounding Rapid DNA solutions (i.e. the automated extraction and analysis of DNA material from swabs taken at crime scenes or in custody), the deliberations surrounding their introduction and impact on the organization of forensic provision in the UK.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines processes of co-production of DNA technologies for forensic purposes in the UK. It focuses on Rapid DNA (i.e. the fully automated extraction, amplification, separation and detection of DNA material from swabs taken at crime scenes or in custody) and the deliberations surrounding its introduction in policing. Providing test results in under two hours, the technology has implications for the speed of DNA processing, the potential saving costs to forces and the use of the National DNA Database. The development of Rapid DNA solutions has been supported by the Home Office since 2011 and different products trial-tested with forces. Based on document analysis of Home Office sources and in-depth interviews with different stakeholders (police, regulators and forensic support) the argument traces the ways in which the need for Rapid DNA has been (1) articulated and crystallised in official documents in terms of the benefits brought to policing and (2) made sense of in key stakeholders' accounts. The discussion focuses on the expectations surrounding Rapid DNA solutions in terms of the benefits they offer to policing, the operational problems they raise and the challenges they foretell. Examining Rapid DNA solutions as a further step in the rationalisation of forensic science use in British policing, the conclusion reflects on their place and role in the current forensic provision.

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