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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 11:07 GMT
Old crimes solved after DNA blitz
Science is playing a crucial role in the fight against crime
Police have cracked 64 unsolved crimes following the DNA testing of prisoners and offenders with mental disorders.

A further 78 unsolved crimes are being revisited after an exercise to take samples from 3,772 prisoners and offenders not on a national database.

DNA matches have helped police take action over a 1997 murder in London and a 1994 rape in South Yorkshire.

The success of the exercise, launched in February, was announced on Monday by Home Office minister Hazel Blears.

Even though these crimes were committed years ago, the victims and their families still have a right to justice
Hazel Blears
The DNA samples were taken between January and September before being analysed and loaded into the national DNA database.

The database currently has more than two million DNA profiles.

Around 1,000 profiles are taken from crime scenes each week to try and match them with names on the database.

'Exploiting technology'

Ms Blears said: "This DNA sampling exercise shows what can be achieved when we exploit existing technology to the full.

"Even though these crimes were committed years ago, the victims and their families still have a right to justice."

Ms Blears also says she hopes a change in the law will lead to even more DNA success.

New powers in the Criminal Justice Act will allow officers to take DNA and fingerprint samples from suspects when they are arrested, rather than when they are charged.

"This sends the strong message that the victims of crime are being put first, and that those who commit crime will be caught, convicted and punished."

Improved detection

Home Office statistics show that 38% of all crimes are detected where DNA has been loaded onto the national database, this compares with a 24% detection rate overall.

And 48% of burglaries are detected where DNA has been loaded onto the database, compared with a 14% detection rate for burglaries overall.

But not all DNA matches result in a detection.

Reasons for this include where DNA found at the scene comes from someone later ruled out as a suspect or police failing to find someone identified as a suspect.

New developments in fingerprint technology have also been helping police to solve old crimes.

A national fingerprint database contains more than 5.5m sets of prints.

Identifications can be made against the fingerprint database in a matter of minutes using the latest scanning technology.

"We will continue to harness new technology in our fight against crime, while making the most of existing technology", Ms Blears added.

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