Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Robots speed up forensic testing

The robots will be used to quicken the pace of DNA testing

Robots which carry out DNA testing at three times the speed of traditional methods have begun operating in two Scottish laboratories.

The 100,000 machines will be employed at the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) forensic science labs in Dundee and Glasgow.

The robots are each capable of testing up to 78 DNA samples in 24 hours.

Similar tests using the manual approach can take two people up to three days to complete.

The new automation process marks the first time such technology has been used in Scotland.

The SPSA said the technology would allow forensic services to speed up the time it takes to pass DNA evidence to the police.

'Complex cases'

Staff would also have more time to concentrate sophisticated forensic expertise in more serious and complex criminal investigations where human decision-making is critical.

Tom Nelson, director of forensic services, said: "This robotic facility is not about replacing the skills that our many high-quality staff bring to forensic analysis but is about improving the efficiency of how we use their skills and talent.

"The new robotic DNA tester will allow us to test more samples, more quickly - reducing the time it takes us to get results back to the investigators within the police who need them to clear up crimes.

"This will be particularly important in tackling the high volume crimes - such as housebreaking.

"Across Scotland we are working flat out to balance the very sophisticated and intensive work our forensic teams do on complex cases such as murder and rape, with the need to support the police in tackling higher volume crimes that they encounter every day."

SPSA has received independent accreditation for the new equipment from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

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