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Science, research and statistics

Using science to fight crime

Science and technology are vital tools in the fight against crime. Our policies are directly influenced by advances in science and technology.

Forensic science (or forensics) is the use of scientific knowledge to investigate, either to solve a crime, or for some other legal reason. Forensics may be used by pathologists to determine cause of death, for example, or by police to match a crime to a criminal.

Forensic science often involves using DNA. DNA is the genetic code found in every cell in our bodies. Each person’s DNA is unique and it can therefore be used to help identify people.

The national DNA database

DNA derived from samples taken from crime scenes or from individuals held in police custody can be searched against the records held in the national DNA database (new window) . This use of DNA technology has made a significant contribution in detecting serious crime, a DNA match on the database can:

  • suggest the possible identity of an offender
  • help solve ‘cold cases’ – unsolved crimes which occurred years ago
  • help catch serious offenders when they are picked up for a minor offence and their DNA is matched to samples already held on the database
  • eliminate individuals from suspicion when their DNA does not match with that found at a crime scene

Working together

Technological advances made by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (new window) have contributed to the development of:

  • more effective methods for detecting fingerprints at crime scenes 
  • specialist equipment to assist the police in covert surveillance operations
  • improved systems to scan for drugs, weapons and explosives
  • lighter body armour to protect police officers

The expansion and development of the national DNA database (new window) has made a significant contribution in detecting serious crime.

Forensic science and the Home Office

We liaise with the Forensic Science Service, Research Councils, and the forensic science and pathology communities. The Forensic science regulation unit in the Home Office oversees the provision of forensic pathology services in England and Wales . We publish documents for Forensic pathologists and are currently developing national competencies and standards for pathologists to adhere to.

See also

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Other Home Office sites

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