OM wants to use pedigree DNA databases to solve cold cases 12:47 in Binnenland The OM wants to use information from two American DNA databases. The drug could be used in serious criminal cases that have stalled.

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DNA research at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI)
NOS News

The Public Prosecution Service and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) want to use private DNA databases in the investigation, which are used for family tree research. The drug could be used in serious criminal cases that have stalled.

This method is already used abroad. The Public Prosecution Service will soon ask the court whether this is also allowed in our country. The Public Prosecution Service and the NFI want to use this investigative method in two cold cases. These are cases in which DNA material is available from an unknown suspect or from a victim of a crime whose identity the police and the Public Prosecution Service do not yet know.

The DNA databases that the Public Prosecution Service wants to use in the investigation are private. These have become increasingly popular in recent years and are used for family tree research: people can use them to search for their (distant) ancestors. The OM wants to request data from GEDMatch and FamilyTreeDNA. These databases were chosen because users themselves can give permission to use their profiles under criminal law. This is not the case with other large American DNA databases.

Increasing use of databases

The databases are mainly used by Americans, but because the ancestors of many inhabitants come from Europe, a match can take place, the OM thinks. “In addition, more and more Dutch people use this kind of DNA databases for family tree research,” it says in a statement.

In the US, the detection method via these types of private databases has been used since 2018. According to the Public Prosecution Service, this led to breakthroughs in about 550 cold cases. The detection method is now also being used in other countries, including Canada and Australia.

Cold cases have also been solved in Europe by using these databases. For example, a double murder case from 2004 was solved in Sweden, and a murder case from 1999 in Norway.

According to Bart Custers, professor of Law and Data Science at the Faculty of Law (Leiden University), it is legally permitted for the Public Prosecution Service to extract data from the databases if the companies cooperate. Nevertheless, he has reservations about this working method, despite a number of breakthroughs. “In Sweden, for example, despite a breakthrough, they still want to stop for a while, because they have reservations about this procedure. The doubts are mainly in the area of ​​privacy.”

“You don’t put the DNA data of the perpetrator in the system, but of related people,” says Custers. “You try to find out the perpetrator. That means that you put sensitive information from innocent citizens in police systems.”

According to Custers, it is also not clear what else is done with that data. “If they are stored in a database, they can also be used in other places. You can get a lot of information from DNA. In this case that may serve a good purpose, but in the future that data may end up abroad or in the care. Different laws apply in other countries. You want a brake and control on that.”

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