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The light’s at the end of the funnel!

Evaluating the effectiveness of the transnational exchange of DNA profiles between the Netherlands and other Prüm countries

Paperback Engels 2015 9789462510937
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While few would still hold forensic DNA analysis for the cure-all for unsolved crimes that many once believed it to be, DNA evidence now clearly ranks as one of the most powerful types of forensic evidence available. In addition to its unrivalled potential to eliminate the innocent and include the potentially guilty, it has proved its capacity to produce a decisive breakthrough in hitherto unsolved crimes. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in resolving miscarriages of justice, thereby revealing the limitations of many traditional types of evidence, including (eye)witness evidence.

Recent developments such as the increase in transnational crime, the blurring of national boundaries and the ongoing digitization of society, have made the exchange of DNA profiles across national borders a welcome new tool in the investigative arsenal. It enables the rapid identification of donors of DNA traces whose reference profiles are stored in foreign databases. To date, there have been some obvious success stories. In press releases, several examples are described of crimes that were committed in the Netherlands and were solved after a crime scene profile in the Dutch forensic DNA database gave a match with an offender profile stored in the DNA database of another European country. However, apart from this limited number of spectacular but essentially anecdotal high profile cases, little is known about the actual effectiveness of the transnational DNA profile exchange in bringing cases to court. Here, the follow-up of a match is the key issue. No follow-up means no added value for the resolution of crimes. Therefore, a true measure of the effectiveness of the exchange process is not obtained by just counting the number of detected matches but by examining how many matches eventually play a role in criminal investigations.

This book reports on just such a study. It looks at the effectiveness of the exchange and comparison of DNA profiles between various European countries, more specifically between the Netherlands and Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The study follows the route of transnational DNA matches detected in 2010 through the Dutch legal system. It appears that some 6% of these matches make it to court. One of the more striking findings of the study is the difference observed between follow-up figures for border as opposed to non-border regions. Our findings also suggest that, like repeat offenders generally and in spite of the presence of a national border, criminals living near a border may likewise tend to commit additional crimes in locations close to those of their previously committed crimes and at a relatively small distance from their place of residence rather than in places further afield.

The study was undertaken as part of the larger PIES project (Prüm Implementation, Evaluation and Strengthening of forensic DNA data exchange) carried out on behalf of the European Commission, Directorate General Home Affairs.


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Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Prüm
1.2 The implementation of the transnational exchange and comparison of DNA profiles
1.3 Outline of the problem and objective of the study

Chapter 2 The Prüm Convention, its implementation and the PIES project
2.1 The Prüm Convention
2.2 The Prüm implementation
2.3 The PIES project
2.4 Research question

Chapter 3 The Dutch follow-up process
3.1 Tactical Criteria: relevance of matches
3.2 Reliability Criteria: validation of matches
3.3 Legal Criteria: legitimacy of matches
3.4 Priority Criteria: relevance of matches
3.5 Suitability Criteria: prosecution value of matches
3.6 Match evaluation criteria summarized

Chapter 4 Research design and implementation
4.1 Performance of the database
4.2 Indicators of effectiveness
4.3 Sub-questions
4.4 Methodology
4.4.1 Research framework
4.4.2 Data and sources
4.4.3 Research instruments
4.4.4 France
4.4.5 Result presentation formats

Chapter 5 Results – Dutch matches
5.1 General view
5.2 Main findings of the 2010 transnational exchange
5.3 Outgoing and incoming transnational requests for further information
5.4 LURIS requests
5.5 Flowchart questionnaire
5.6 Dropouts
5.7 Follow-up ‘Selection Funnel’
5.8 Closer analysis
5.8.1 Four types of matches
5.8.2 The follow-up of 6/7-locus and ≥8-locus matches
5.8.3 The follow-up of Q3 and Q4 - near matches
5.8.4 The follow-up of serious and HVC-crimes
5.9 Match information
5.10 Role of matches
5.11 Regional differences
5.12 Differences between Prüm countries
5.13 Cross-border patterns
5.14 Extra cost

Chapter 6 Results – French matches
6.1 Matches with France
6.2 Follow-up of French crime scene profiles matching with a Dutch profile
6.3 Follow-up of Dutch matches with a French profile

Chapter 7 Results - Belgian matches

Chapter 8 Conclusions and recommendations

Appendix 1 Abbreviations European Member States
Appendix 2 The follow-up process in the Netherlands
Appendix 3 The DNA databases of the participating Prüm countries
Appendix 4 H/N-parameter and the national databases in the Prüm countries
Appendix 5 Summary of flow chart results
Appendix 6 Dropout conditions Stage 2

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        The light’s at the end of the funnel!