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Scientist calls for DNA fingerprinting for all

LONDON (Reuters) - Everyone should be DNA fingerprinted to help tackle crime and enhance personal security, the inventor of the modern forensic technique has suggested.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, of the department of genetics at the University of Leicester, said existing criminal DNA databases were too small to catch criminal suspects.

"At the moment, we have a criminal DNA database of about two million profiles in the UK," he told reporters as scientists met at the top scientific body, the Royal Society, to celebrate the discovery of DNA 50 years ago.

"The real problem in a typical crime is that even if you get DNA from a crime scene, you can't pick up a suspect because they don't have a record, so one possibility is to extend the database to include the entire population."

Jeffreys said he would feel "very uncomfortable" if such a database was run by the police.

"That would give entirely the wrong perception. But I would certainly be in favour of a database like that being established by a quite independent agency."

The database would carry a person's individual DNA profile and would certify their identity. "So it is not just a criminal investigation database but a personal security and assurance database as well," he said.

DNA fingerprinting -- from the tiniest of human specimens -- is already widely used in criminal investigations, paternity testing and to help settle applications for immigration, affecting the lives of thousands of people in a way Sherlock Holmes could not have dreamed possible.

The technique was developed in 1984 by Jeffreys after he noticed the existence of certain sequences of DNA that do not contribute to the function of a gene are repeated within the gene and in other genes of a DNA sample.

In most cases it provides an accuracy of identification in the tens to hundreds of millions to one. Its use has trapped perpetrators but has also exonerated the innocent who might otherwise have been found guilty due to circumstantial evidence.

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