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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

LCN DNA testing deemed unsuitable as convicting evidence.

21 December, 2007
The Omagh bombing trial has come to an end with the evidence having been declared unsafe based on DNA test samples and lack of corroborating evidence.
The trial of what has been described as the worst single atrocity in Northern Ireland's history came to an abrupt end yesterday when the Belfast Judge threw out the case for lack of sufficient evidence. What had been presented were DNA samples obtained from Low Copy Number DNA testing, something that isn't new but is the subject of some controversy with only Holland and New Zealand accepting it as admissible in court.

Not to be confused with gold standard DNA profiles which are acceptable, Low Copy Number (or LCN) testing is used on extremely small samples of material and are therefore subject to higher degrees of error.

In the Omagh bombing trial, this inaccuracy, combined with a lack of corroborating evidence and some failures to protect the forensic evidence.

So does this signal the end of LCN DNA testing? No it doesn't. It is still a tangible investigative tool that has immense value in solving crimes but in order to bring about a conviction, it needs to be solidly reinforced with corroborative evidence. The terrorist attack in Omagh in 1998 was a savage act of inconceivable violence for which a conviction is needed to maintain the credibility of the justice system, a system that must rely on high quality evidence. In this trial, it's the quality that comes into question, not the role of LCN DNA testing as an investigative tool.
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