A British perspective.
The disgusting conclusion to the court case in Northern Ireland that has found no one guilty for the Omagh bombing, some nine years after the atrocity, has bought DNA evidence under the microscope, if you like, once again. In this case it was LCN ('Low Copy Number), in the dock, DNA that failed to bring the conviction of the suspected bomber Sean Hoey, and because of this outcome all cases involving convictions this way will now be reexamined. LCN is a relatively recent development of DNA science which allows analysis of tiny samples of skin cells, sweat and other bodily fluids. The difference to the main DNA test is here it's often transferred DNA through fingerprints and fluids that is examined and used as incriminating evidence. Indeed LCN testing is to be suspended immediately in the U.K.
The Hoey verdict was correct on the evidence that was allowed to be presented in the Belfast court but not what the case warranted, known Republicans insensitively cheering in the public gallery as yet another IRA thug walked. There's even talk the accused is going to sue one of the dead boys fathers for bringing the case! The way Irish politics are right now he may well win that case. Three other men convicted for this the worst ever attack of the 30 year 'Troubles' have also been freed on appeal since the blast. Indeed during this case critical evidence that would almost certainly have convicted Hoey (an unemployed electrician) seemed to just disappear. So botched was the case the judge had no choice but to call an end to it. In one case the defense argued that one fragment of the this LCN-DNA presented at the trail actually matched a 14 year old boy in Nottingham. It was almost if all legal people concerned wanted this trail to fail and for the case and horrific memories to be finally closed.
The problem with this trial all along was because the peace process is up and running they never really wanted to convict anyone for this outrage in the present, fearing it would upset the balance of things. The RUC know exactly who made the bomb and exactly who planted it. The man in court is believed to be one of those men. In fact many in the know say the bomb was allowed to get to Omagh because N. Ireland SCS and British Intelligence didn't want to expose their high ranking informers, so to jeopardize future information. More sinister elements say that some of the more shady elements in British intelligence wanted the bomb to go off so to literally blow the IRAs credibility out of the water in one big bang, and so force a surrender of sorts. The fact the bomb killed indiscriminately (and the terrorists gave four warnings) suggested someone didn't do enough to stop it going off. On that fateful day the Omagh Sein Fein offices were closed for the first time in 12 years and the police and army seemingly confined to barracks. The informers told the RUC and British intelligence a bomb was coming in and to be on alert in three certain provinces of Northern Ireland. No warnings were passed on to the people of Omagh. It was carnage. 29 dead and over 300 injured, an Iraq style suicide bombing destruction of innocent human life. If this didn't polarize opinion on the IRA splinter groups then nothing would. The fact that British agents were later discovered in Basra some three years back dressed as Iraqis with high tech explosives in their car means you can't put anything past the intelligence services at times of war and terror. We saw that duplicity with the outrageous dodgy dossier.
Conspiracy theorists would also say that if the bomb was the decisive factor in bringing about relative peace in N.Ireland then some sort of deal has been struck since. None of the IRA prisoners who have been released on license there have re-offended in acts of terror. Gangsterism yes. Terrorism no. Could the case have been sabotaged by the powers that be to maintain that truce? Were the police told to stack the evidence onto this vague DNA link to actually undermine the cases chance of success? Is this an acute example of the 'for the greater good '? The guy was facing 58 offences and was found not guilty on all of them.
Of course this isn't the only controversial case involving the use of transferred particles to try and get a conviction. The bizarre case of Barry Balsura, now earning a second retrial for the murder of Jill Dando after the forensic evidence was seriously questioned by experts, is an extreme example of how one spec of this type of evidence can find you guilty. Like with the case of Bradley Murdoch in Australia, accused of killing the British backpacker, it was a much later discovered gunpowder particle that would put the two men in the frame. In high profile cases like this where police careers and pensions are at stake if someone isn't caught then why a corrupt officer place a particle in the evidence to secure a conviction. I know DND evidence is usually given in conjunction with other pieces of proof but you have to say both men went down on those particles alone. Did we not just get an over-turned conviction come to light with this innocent guy back in the 70s, police 'claiming' the guy convicted (with a low I.Q, like Balsura) raped and murdered a schoolgirl in the seventies, the detectives claiming his semen was found inside her at the time. It later transpired the guy was impotent and so that was never possible. Rather ironically, his real killer was caught two years ago because of that new DNA science. But could this seemingly bullet proof evidence that is getting so many convictions now also be misused. If it is proved Balsura didn't kill Dando then its pretty clear he was put in the frame by under pressure detectives because he fitted the profile on what the public would accept is a guy who could have done the killing...a menace off the streets and case closed. It turns out Bulsara is a retarded idiot and incapable of killing an ant, let alone a famous TV presenter. Myself? Well I always thought Dando was professionally 'clipped', possibly by an associate of an irritated and imbalanced criminal mobster who had a grudge against Crimewatch, which she presented and, let's face it, the show pretty successful at helping to solve high profile cases.
Another possibility was that she was working for MI6 on the side and the access her holiday program (and looks and figure) granted her abroad would also be a good way to gather intelligence for Britain. You may laugh at that suggestion but well known journalists like John Snow were recruited in the seventies for exactly that reason, news journalists often first on the scene and more than willing to poke around. What better cover than a sexy TV presenter...
So if DNA super particles are the way to secure criminal convictions, especially what they call "cold cases", unsolved cases that retain some DNA specs in the evidence through retained forensics and evidence, then just how safe are these convictions? We know the McCann's may well face trial in the New Year through this so called LCN, DNA evidence, backed up by equally penetrative telecommunications evidence. When a crime or accident is not premeditated then what the accused did before it can not be covered up. Are the McCann's making uncomfortable and cringing Christmas appeals (considering current public opinion) because they fear conviction from that expected DNA trace to come from the car or are they innocent? Ones things for sure, the case is going to be bigger than anything we have seen in Portuguese legal history if it goes ahead. I'm still unsure about Jerry McCann's involvement but Kate's body language is all wrong and so suspicious. They seemed to scarper from Portugal sharpish and abandon the search when they were officially under suspicion.
Whatever the effect DNA has on that case the police love DNA evidence it in the U.K. There was a case the other day where seemingly innocent and playful young girls were using crayon on a neighbor's fence, only to be reported to the cops. The police came and, believe it or not, the cops not only ticked the girls off but took the kids DNA smear with a swob, the middle class mom and owner of in tears. You may think this is an extreme and unusual case. Well its not. Some 10,000 children have been swabbed for misdemeanors and they are now on the DNA database. More chillingly one third are ethnic minorities. In fact 37% of all DNA samples in the U.K are from black and Asian people, the current 'War on Terror' climate and fears over gun crime and drugs reason enough for the cops to go swab crazy. And make no mistake, once you are on these databases, as we have seen with the recent loss of the 25 million child benefit names, your sensitive details could easily fall into the wrong hands. I can think of 500 companies that would love to know all your defects in your DNA. If the cops give us speed tickets for doing 33 in a 30 and the DVLA are matching our number plates to our home address on behalf of private clamping companies for a small fee then why not sell our DNA info on the sly to insurance firms that don't like insuring people with health defects.
A hypothetical for me where DNA evidence breaks down as the central proof is where corruption is involved, or the 'fit up' as our friendly detectives in the brilliant Life on Mars would shout. If you have innocently visited a crime scene and your DNA is present, and other actions you have taken that day put you under suspicion, say someone seeing you there, what's to stop you being convicted of that offense by corrupt officers? Ok it probably wouldn't happen to your or me, of no 'previous', but it may happen to someone who fits the bill, like Barry Bulsura. In fact the only evidence that seemed to convict the odd-ball is that he had a total of four pictures of Jill Dando in his student landfill flat. What we didn't know is those pictures where inside moldy copies of Hello magazine, buried under huge piles of old publications and newspapers, untouched - not stuck up on the wall with dart holes in the eye-balls.
Its great the DNA samples are catching lots of these cold cases and dangerous men are been taking off the streets, but when the DNA trace becomes more muddled we are going to have lots of false convictions, Bradley Murdoch and Barry Bulsura at the top of that pile of maybes. And if there's nothing the lawyers like more its ambiguous evidence that they can use to convict and defend people with.