Australian police are set to have access to revolutionary DNA technology developed in the UK. The move could catch thousands more criminals every year and allow police to investigate cold cases from years past.
DNAboost – which allows scientists to unravel mixed and previously unusable genetic samples – was hailed for its crime-fighting potential by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006.
Experts believe the powerful software will identify up to 6,000 extra suspects annually, and could also help in cases such as that of missing UK girl Madeleine McCann – where forensic evidence appears to have been difficult to analyse. Currently Australian police send difficult DNA analysis to the UK.
An Australian Federal Police forensic officer said “We work closely with the UK forensic teams. We exchange information regulary. We also send officers for training in the UK and the new DNA technology if approved for use here will help us significantly.”
However, despite impressive results from pilot schemes in the UK police have been banned from using the tool for more than 12 months.
The long delay led detectives and scientists to complain that the technology was falling victim to a “turf war” over the UK National DNA Database.
The Forensic Science Service, which developed DNAboost, was stripped of control over the bank of 3.5 million samples in December 2005, when it was made an independent Government-backed company.
Madeleine McCann: The software could provide vital breakthroughs in cases like hers, where DNA evidence is particularly difficult to analyse
A Home Office strategy board including representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities now decides how the database can be used.
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed today that the strategy board had delivered its recommendation and the matter had been passed to the Attorney General for final sign-off.
“A decision is expected imminently,” she said.
A source close to the project said DNAboost was the “most validated DNA technology in history”.
“This is the biggest step forward in crime-fighting science for more than a decade, and it has taken far too long to get clearance,” the source said.
“It looks like it’s finally getting authorised, but we could have caught thousands of criminals while they have gone through these hoops.”