In the last 5 years, a number of European countries have successfully introduced national databases holding the DNA profiles from suspected and convicted criminal offenders as well as from biological stain materials from unsolved crime cases. At present, DNA databases are fully or partially in operation in the UK, The Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. Furthermore, in the other European countries, specific legislation will be enacted soon, or the introduction of such databases is being discussed to initiate a legislative process. Numerous differences exist regarding the criteria for a criminal offender to be included in the database, the storage periods and the possibility to remove database records, the possibility to keep reference samples from the offenders as long as their respective records are being held, and the role of judges in the process of entering a database record or to perform a database search. Nevertheless, harmonization has been achieved regarding the DNA information stored in national databases, and a European standard set of genetic systems has been recommended which is included either in part or completely in the DNA profiles of offenders and crime stains for all European databases. This facilitates the exchange of information from database records to allow the investigation of crime cases across national borders. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Crime; Database; DNA; STR analysis; Legislation; Privacy rights
Forensic DNA typing in Europe is strongly influenced by great differences between the national legal systems as well as by a heterogeneity regarding the laboratories involved in casework. This affects the storage of personal genetic data for the purpose of criminal investigations, the introduction of national DNA databases for criminal offenders, and, in some countries, even the possibility to obtain DNA samples from suspects and the acceptance of DNA evidence in casework. At the political level, a decision was reached in 1997 between the members of the European Union to create a framework for a European DNA database for offenders convicted for sexual abuse of children. In this situation, pan-European standardization of DNA profiling as well as DNA database services is absolutely necessary.
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The rapid development in the field of forensic molecular genetics in the last 15 years has resulted in at least three consecutive generations of DNA typing methods (for review, see ). The European DNA profiling group (EDNAP; accepted as a working group of the international society for forensic genetics (lSFG) since 1991) is acting towards harmonization in this field, and has initiated a series of scientific collaborative exercises for the evaluation of new DNA typing methods and systems. As a result, a number of loci were recommended suitable as common European systems [2-4]. To coordinate and standardize operational processes of DNA typing in casework within the police laboratories as well as in the laboratories providing this service for the police, the DNA working group of the European network of forensic science institutes (ENFSI) was founded 3 years ago. Operational national DNA dataabases presently exist in the UK (1995), The Netherlands and Austria (1997), Germany (1998) [5,6], in Finland and Norrway (1999), and recently in Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden (see Table 1). Furthermore, in a number of counntries, legislation is in preparation to allow the creation of a national DNA database (see Tables 1 and 2).
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