Dozens of rape and murder convictions to undergo fresh DNA testing

By John Mercury April 16, 2024

Dozens of rape and murder convictions from before 2016 will undergo fresh DNA testing to identify potential miscarriages of justice.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has re-examined nearly 5,500 cases that it previously rejected in the light of improvement in DNA analysis techniques.

Its initial trawl last summer found around a quarter of the cases are those where the identity of the offender is challenged.

Focusing on those, it says there are potentially several dozen cases where DNA samples could be retested using the DNA 17 technique, first introduced in 2014.

According to the Home Office website, the DNA-17 technique increases the number of areas of the DNA which are examined from 10 to 16 plus gender markers: XX for women and XY for men.

The additional areas within DNA-17 decrease the possibility that two unrelated individuals will have the same profile to less than 1 in a billion.

The test also allows for better, more complete DNA profiles to be gathered from crime-scene samples where the DNA has degraded or is present only in tiny quantities.

Malkinson case

The CCRC was roundly criticised over the case of Andrew Malkinson, a man who spent 17 years behind bars following a wrongful rape conviction.

He applied for a review in 2009 but that was rejected in 2012, and again in 2020.

Mr Malkinson only succeeded in eventually having his conviction quashed last year.

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Malkinson: Wrongly imprisoned for rape

His solicitor, Emily Bolton, from the charity Appeal, said: “This announcement is a stunning admission that, after missing DNA testing opportunities in Andrew Malkinson’s case, the CCRC may also have denied justice to hundreds of other innocent people.

“If the CCRC had begun this exercise back when DNA-17 testing became available in 2014, it could have spared Andrew Malkinson extra years wrongly imprisoned.

“This review is currently too limited in scope.”

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The CCRC said it is requesting additional government funding to carry out the retesting as quickly as possible.

This could lead to the cases being referred to the Court of Appeal, and the convictions quashed.

A CCRC spokesperson said: “This trawl is a significant task and is the first undertaken by us on this scale.

“It could take considerable time, requiring us to have substantial additional resources so we can balance this important work with our existing case reviews.

“Our purpose is to find, investigate and refer potential miscarriages of justice, so it is imperative that we take advantage of opportunities offered by scientific developments to do that.”


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