3 Dec 2020 – DNA evidence

Science Serving Justice

PresenterDr Antonel Olckers

The aims of this webinar are twofold: firstly to highlight a few key aspects of DNA evidence for forensic scientists who are not DNA experts, and secondly to highlight some of the aspects in the DNA evidence field that are currently under discussion at the global level. DNA evidence has often, incorrectly, been viewed as better evidence or fail proof. DNA evidence is circumstantial and must be seen in context of other evidence in the case. The process of DNA evidence, from collection to reporting, will be outlined. In addition to the validation of DNA evidence for use in forensic science, the global best-practice standard in the field also includes other types of validation, certification and accreditation. In the past decade concerns related to the technology and processes used to generate DNA data made way for concerns related to data analysis and interpretation. One such concern is the impact of cognitive bias on the scientific process. New technologies and DNA-based platforms are increasingly being used in the field. Machine learning is starting to be employed in DNA analysis, and new genealogy platforms offer unique opportunities for justice, but require an appropriate legal framework. A proposed way forward with regard to DNA evidence in South Africa will be discussed.