DNA databases for offender identification in Europe—the need for technical, legal and political harmonization, PM Schneider

Tags: DNA Databases, DNA database, European countries, European level, DNA profiles, Schneider P.M., offenders, samples, Belgium National Institute of Convicted criminals, Forensic Sci, National Institute Convicted criminals, Johnsson V., core systems, database entry, DNA profile, database entries, Schmitter H., SGM, Pfitzinger H., final decision, national database, database searches, independent database, European Union, DNA samples, Johannes Gutenberg University, DNA typing, DNA, national DNA database, Europe, ABI, case investigations, crime scene samples, Denmark University Institute
Content: DNA Databases for Offender Identification in Europe -- The Need for Technical, Legal and Political Harmonization
Peter M. Schneider Institute of Legal Medicine, Johannes Gutenberg University, Am Pulverturm 3, 55131 Mainz, Germany
In 1995, a national database has been established quite successfully in the U.K.. It is being used for the identification of suspects using short tandem repeat (STR) typing results from casework as well as from reference DNA samples obtained from suspected and convicted offenders. The introduction of multiplex PCR typing systems allowing the simultaneous analysis of ten independent loci or more greatly facilitates the rapid typing of samples and computer-based storage of results in large DNA profile databases. However, in order to introduce such a database as well at the European level, it must be recognized that the legal systems in the member states of the European Union are quite diverse and may not allow the storage of personal genetic data for the purpose of criminal investigation. At present, there is still a significant heterogeneity among the European countries already concerning the possibility to obtain DNA samples from suspects and the acceptance of DNA evidence in casework [for review, see ref. 1]. There is no generally agreed model regarding the organisational structure of a national DNA database. Therefore, Fig. 1 may serve as an example for such a database exhibiting typical features which should ascertain the efficient use in criminal investigations and at the same time provides a maximum of data protection and quality assurance for the DNA profiles entered. This model is divided into three separate organisational areas: the DNA database with profiling laboratory for typing and storage of anonymous DNA samples collected from offenders only for the purpose of database searches; an independent database only for storage of personal records and identification tags used to anonymize the DNA data-
base samples; the police carrying out routine casework investigations on crime scene samples. Thus, the database is completely separated from casework investigations only serving as an intelligence tool for offender identification. The typing of reference samples from known offenders submitted to the database has to be subjected to rigorous internal quality control and quality assurance procedures to avoid storage of unconfirmed or erroneous typing results, as these could lead to a wrongful exclusion of a perpetrator. In a criminal investigation regarding the origin of an unknown crime scene sample, DNA typing would be carried out in a routine lab on behalf of the police, and the results would then be submitted to the database for a search against the profiles of known offenders (person-to-scene match) or against other samples from unsolved crimes (scene-to-scene match). If a match is found, the database lab can retrieve the stored reference sample for a confirmatory analysis before forwarding the respective ID code to the personal database. The police unit carrying out the case investigations will then be informed about the identity of the suspect. If arrested, a fresh DNA sample has to be obtained from the suspect for further investigations and to serve as evidence in court. At present, national DNA databases are in operation in 4 European countries. Plans for a database are at different levels of preparation in 8 more countries. Only 4 countries do not plan to introduce a database in the near future (see Table 1). At the political level, a decision has been reached in 1997 between the members of the European Union to create a framework for a European DNA Data-
Database in operation UK Netherlands Austria Germany
Date of introduction April 1995 1997 October 1997 April 1998
Table 1: DNA Databases in Europe Database in Date of legislation preparation (date of planned operation)
Belgium Denmark Finland France Norway Spain Sweden Switzerland
September 1998 ? July 1997 (1.1.1999) end of 1998 September 1997 ? January 1999 end of 1998
Currently no plans for database Ireland Italy Greece Portugal
DNA Databases for Offender Identification in Europe -- The Need For Technical, Legal and Political Harmonization
base for offenders convicted for sexual abuse of children. To allow the exchange of DNA profiling data for this purpose, agreements have to be reached regarding the typing technology and the selection of standard DNA systems forming the core of the database. Recommendations have been made by the DNA Working Group of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI ­ a network of police and government laboratories) and
by Interpol to use the following STR loci as core systems: TH01, vWA, FGA, D21S11. These loci have initially been recommended as suitable for standardization by the EDNAP (European DNA Profiling) Group (a working group of the International Society for Forensic Haemogenetics ­ ISFH) based on a series of collaborative exercises [2-4].
Table 2: European Countries with DNA Databases in Operation
Custodian /Location of Database Forensic Science Service, Dutch Forensic Science Central DNA Typing
Bundeskriminalamt (BKA),
central database lab in
Laboratory, Rijswijk
Laboratory, Institute of Wiesbaden
Legal Medicine, Innsbruck (Federal Criminal Office)
Samples stored and entry criteria DNA profiles and refer- DNA profiles only of:
DNA profiles and DNA DNA profiles only of:
ence samples of:
- convicted offenders
reference samples of:
- suspects
- suspects
- unknown samples
- suspects
- convicted offenders
- convicted offenders
for serious crimes with 2 - convicted offenders
- unknown samples,
- unknown samples
years imprisonment or - unknown samples,
for serious crimes with one
for "any recordable
more after court order
for crimes against life and year imprisonment or more,
health, sexual abuse,
sexual abuse and other seri-
robbery, theft, arson,
ous crimes,
blackmail, drug-related at present only for results
and other serious crimes obtained from routine case-
work when DNA typing was
ordered by a judge
Anonymization requirements
anonymous storage of
anonymous storage of
reference samples and
DNA profiles only, sepa-
DNA profiles, separate rate register for personal
register for personal
(crime samples can be
Removal of entries
Acquitted suspects only offenders: after 30 years
samples: after 18 years
No. of entries (June 1998)
offenders: 200
unknown samples: 400
DNA systems used (see also Table 4)
- Quadruplex
- Quadruplex
Change of legislation
planned to allow entry of
offender profiles without
court order
anonymous storage of reference samples and DNA profiles, separate register for personal records outside the central DNA lab
open storage of DNA profiles together with personal data, typing of anonymized personal and crime scene samples in police and university laboratories
acquitted suspects only
routine controls for samples to be removed every 5 years
no statistics available yet
4 European core systems + SE33
Additional legislation proposed to obtain samples from convicted offenders in cases where no DNA typing was carried out during investigation
DNA Databases for Offender Identification in Europe -- The Need For Technical, Legal and Political Harmonization
Table 3: European Countries with Databases in Preparation
(if no information is given, the respective issue is still under discussion)
Database custodian
Entry criteria
Sample storage and re- DNA systems used for
moval periods
National Institute of
Convicted criminals with DNA profiles only from 4 European core systems
Criminalistics, Brussels court order for crimes with ­ convicted offenders
+ at least 3 additional STR
3 years of imprisonment ­ unknown samples,
systems (not yet defined)
or more
removal after 30 years
University Institute of
no details available yet, a commission report has been
Forensic Genetics, Copen- submitted to the parliament
Crime Laboratory,
Suspects for crimes with DNA profiles and DNA Promega or ABI multiplex
National Bureau of Inves- 1 year of imprisonment or reference samples from
STR systems, no final
tigation, Vantaa
more, for offenders con- ­ suspects
decision yet
victed before 1.7.97 also ­ convicted offenders
retrospectively if still held ­ unknown samples, re-
in prison
moval after 1 year if suspect
is acquitted, legal limit for
data storage 10 years (law
may be changed for DNA
sexual assault on children
University Institute of
Convicted criminals with DNA profiles only from ABI SGM Plus likely, no
Legal Medicine, Oslo
court order for sexual
­ convicted offenders
final decision yet
abuse, crimes against life ­ unknown samples,
and health, crimes posing no removal except after
danger to the public (e.g. death or proven innocence
arson), blackmail and
Legislation had been proposed in 1995 and was rejected.
It will be presented again in a few months.
SKL ­ National Institute Convicted criminals for DNA profiles only from ABI Profiler
of Forensic Science,
crimes with 2 years of
­ convicted offenders
imprisonment or more ­ unknown samples,
removal 10 years after
release from prison
(without further offense)
University Institute of
DNA profiles and DNA ABI Profiler (Plus) likely,
Legal Medicine
reference samples may be no final decision yet
stored, removal periods are
under discussion
The surveys from Table 2 (databases in operation) and Table 3 (databases in preparation) represent the situation of DNA database projects in Europe in June 1998. In a number of countries, no final decisions have been made yet, or changes may still be possible to the information given here.
Regarding the system standardization, most countries are using or planning to use either the SGM (second generation multiplex) developed and used by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) for the U.K. National DNA Database, or multiplex PCR systems offered by commercial companies like Promega or Applied Biosystems (for
DNA Databases for Offender Identification in Europe -- The Need For Technical, Legal and Political Harmonization
Table 4: Composition and properties of STR multiplexes selected for databases
Multiplex kit/loci SGM ABI Profiler*
STR system composition TH01+, vWA+, FGA+, D8S1179, D18S51, D21S11+, AMG TH01+, vWA+, FGA+, TPOX, CSF1PO,
Chance for a random match 1 in 50 Million 1 in 3.5 Billion
D3S1358, D5S818, D7S820, D13S317,
AMG TH01+, vWA+, FGA+, D2S1338, D6S477,
more than 1 in 100 Billion
D8S1179, D16S539, D18S51, D19S433,
D21S11+, AMG
German database loci
TH01+, vWA+, FGA+, D21S11+, SE33
1 in 10 Million
European core loci
TH01+, vWA+, FGA+, D21S11+
1 in 100,000
+ European core systems; * a different composition will be made available which also includes D21S11
further details, see other contributions to this volume). As these multiplexes comprise a number of common and different loci, efforts are being made to include at least the four European core systems in all multiplexes offered. All commercially available kits also contain the XYchromosomal Amelogenin locus (AMG) suitable for male/female detection. Nevertheless, the discrimination power of the four core loci is much less compared to the systems selected in national database projects (see Table 4). This may limit the future use of some of the national databases at the European level. The concept of "uniqueness" of a DNA profile in a database which was the basis of decision for selecting 13 STR loci in the United States for the national CODIS database, has not been adopted yet by most of the European countries. In all European countries, specific legislation was required for the creation of national DNA databases, as the existing laws either prohibited the taking of a blood or saliva sample from suspects without consent or outside police investigations only for the purpose of a database, or the use of DNA profiling in criminal casework, and the storage of DNA profiles in computerized databases. The protection of privacy rights at different levels has led to two different database models: in a number of countries, DNA profiles as well as reference DNA samples from suspects and/or convicted criminals may be stored anonymously in a central database facility, which enables a rigorous quality control of typing procedures and results, as well as further internal controls of a matching sample identified in a database search before the information about a match is being disclosed to the police. The storage of reference samples allows also to update database entries for future improvements in typing technology. In contrast, several other countries have decided that these reference samples (but not the crime scene samples) must be destroyed after completion of the typing procedure to prevent any illegal analyses of the genomic DNA samples. In Germany, DNA profiles may therefore
be stored without anonymization in a central police database, but the DNA laboratory responsible for the typing the (anonymized) casework samples has no access to the (non-anonymized) database records to verify the correctness of the entries. In these countries, the current typing technology has to be maintained over the next decades without the possibility of future enhancements for the existing records (except after having obtained a fresh sample again from casework). Further heterogeneity is observed regarding the crimes which may lead to a DNA database entry, the selection of persons, the basis of decision, as well as the storage periods. Criteria for a database entries may be as follows: · all suspects or convicted offenders only (with or without a court order), · retrospectively also for convicted offenders already serving prison sentences, · for any recordable offense, · sexual abuse (all cases or children only), · crimes typically associated with stain evidence (e.g. serial theft, robbery, blackmail), · severe crimes depending on a minimum period of imprisonment (typically 1-3 years), · crimes against health and life, · serious crime (e.g. organized crime), · crimes causing danger to the public (e.g. arson). The storage periods are either indefinite (except for acquitted suspects, or convicted offenders with proven innocence in a later trial), or limited to explicit periods between 10 and 30 years starting either from the date of database entry or from the date of release from prison. This survey emphasizes the need for harmonization of these technical and legal issues at the European level in spite of considerable heterogeneities of the cultural, political and legal conditions among the European countries, which are based on historical developments and a
DNA Databases for Offender Identification in Europe -- The Need For Technical, Legal and Political Harmonization
different national heritage in each country. Nevertheless, the current developments regarding DNA databases represent a significant change in most countries. To further improve the usefulness of this powerful method in criminal investigations, and to respect and protect individual privacy rights at the same time, a continued collaborative effort of scientific and legal experts will be necessary. REFERENCES 1. Schneider P.M., Rittner C., Martin P.D. (eds.) (1997) Proceedings of the European Symposium "Ethical and Legal Issues of DNA Typing in Forensic Medicine", Forensic Sci. Int., 88:1-110 2. Gill P., Kimpton C., D'Aloja E., Andersen J.F., Bдr W., Brinkmann B., Holgerssen S., Johnsson V., Kloosterman AD., Lareu
M.V., Nellemann L., Pfitzinger H., Phillips C.P., Schmitter H., Schneider P.M., Stenersen M., (1994) Report of the European DNA profiling group (EDNAP) - Towards Standardization of Short Tandem Repeat (STR) Loci. Forensic Sci. Int., 65:51-59 3. Kimpton C., Gill P., D'Aloja E., Andersen J.F., Bдr W., Holgerssen S., Jacobsen S., Johnsson V., Kloosterman A.D., Lareu M.V., Nellemann L., Pfitzinger H., Phillips C.P., Rand S., Schmitter H., Schneider P.M., Stenersen M., Vide MC., (1995) Report on the Second EDNAP Collaborative STR Exercise. Forensic Sci. Int., 71:137-152 4. Gill P., d'Aloja A., Andersen J., Dupuy B., Jangblad M., Johnsson V., Kloosterman A.D., Kratzer A., Lareu M.V., Meldegaard M., Philips C., Pfitzinger H., Rand S., Sabatier M., Scheithauer R., Schmitter H., Schneider P.M., Vide M.C., (1997) Report of the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP): An Investigation of the Complex STR Loci D21S11 and HUMFIBRA (FGA). Forensic Sci. Int., 86:25-33
Database samples
ID of matching sample Anonymous DNA database with profiling lab and sample storage Database search
Database for personal records and ID tags only Inquiry about unknown sample Figure 1: A database model
Name of suspect
Casework samples
Routine police investigations for casework samples

PM Schneider

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Title: DNA Databases for Offender Identification in Europe -- The Need for Technical, Legal and Political Harmonization
Author: PM Schneider
Author: Peter M. Schneider
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