The purpose of criminal investigations in Wales has changed, where at one point its initiative was to bring criminal offenders to justice with the investigative section simply being about gathering evidence to assist in the prosecutions of these offenders, where now crime risks such as intelligence gathering, victim care, and community reassurance are seen just as vital (Stelfox, 2009).
Forensic advancements over time have played a massive part in aiding criminal investigations in Wales. Examples of forensic advancements since the 1980s in and Wales consists of DNA, fingerprinting, DNA profiling, DNA databases, forensic toxicology, and forensic ballistics.
DNA technology has been an incredible tool that has brought about a massive change in criminal justice and criminal investigation (Panneerchelvam and Norazmi, 2003). The use of DNA fingerprinting for identification has helped revolutionize crime detection all over (Panneerchelvam and Norazmi, 2003). In 1986, Dr. Alec Jeffery`s first used DNA fingerprinting to aid in verifying a suspect`s confession that he had committed two rape murders. Due to Dr. Jefferie’s use of DNA fingerprinting it was found that the individual hadn`t committed the crime. Since then, investigators today can recover DNA profiles from skin cells that have been left behind by an offender who has simply touched a surface. This modernized change as well as new data analysis approaches have granted investigators the ability to distinguish mixed DNA samples (Arnaud, 2017). These are trace samples that consist of multiple individuals’ DNA (Hu, Cong, Li, Ma, Lihong, Fu, and Zhang, 2014). Large samples of DNA such as bloodstains used to be required to acquire enough DNA and form a profile. However, 1985 the creation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 1985 by Kary Mullis sat as a solution to this (Arnaud, 2017). The process amplifies DNA samples by copying them multiple times and effectively making detection easier (Britannica, 2019). Prior to DNA profiling, forensics focused mainly on fingerprint examination and blood type comparison as forms of identification. The creation of DNA profiling has advanced identification for criminal investigators having given them a wider amount of forms (Oosthuizen and Howes, 2021). Touch DNA is another forensic advancement within DNA profiling that has changed criminal investigations since the 1980s as police are now able to gather DNA from objects that a suspect has touched. If a suspect touches items whilst being interviewed, officers can obtain their fingerprint DNA from what they touched. Large amounts were required before the 80s to be able to obtain DNA matches (KOVA corp, 2021).
The recognition of fingerprint patterns began in the early 1800s, however, it would be decades until they were applied to a criminal investigation. Fingerprints are unique to the individual and this was learned before fingerprints were found to be a solid form of identification (Science Edition, 2021). Before the 1980s, police detectives were left to manually compare fingerprints that were on file already to find a specific match. This process could take from hours to days whilst also not coming out with any results. This issue was resolved with the first electronic fingerprint matching system, AFIS. This system produced speedy cross-checking of fingerprints, this being a massive advancement over previous procedures (Science Edition, 2021). Also, this same system now can hold up to 50 million fingerprints, mug shots, and criminal backgrounds, a stark difference from the manual comparisons before the 1980s (Science Edition, 2021).
Before the 1980s, cases that involved DNA didn`t work effectively as they required a suspect as well as a blood sample from that suspect. Without a sample from a suspect, a comparison couldn`t be made. DNA databases can now, within Wales, house many different DNA profiles and allow profiles to be compared and analyzed faster than the manual way before the 80s (Oosthuizen and Howes, 2021). The databases can analyze unknown samples and compare them to already listed samples. This is vital in terms of violent crimes like sexual assault and homicide as those crimes are found to have repeat offenders, meaning running a case with no suspects through the database increased the chances of identifying one. Additionally, DNA databases have helped solve unsolved cases (Arnaud, 2017). DNA testing before was restricted to identifiable body fluids such as semen, blood, and saliva, whereas now substances like clothing fibers, hair follicles, and skin cells can be identified and used to help identify suspects within criminal investigations (Donahue and Perlin, 2018).
Similarly, with forensic toxicology, analysts used to have to run chemicals manually unlike now where new and advanced technology allows quick and improved testing abilities. GC MS is an advanced system dating back to the 1980s that can identify and assess components of any size quickly and effectively unlike the manual running before the 80s (Otorocha, 2016). The importance of trace evidence when it comes to crime scene analysis is not acknowledged as much as DNA evidence. It can show what happened at a crime scene such as whether a body was moved or what position an individual was assaulted in (NFSTC, 2013).
Technological advancements have drastically changed the way that DNA forensics works within criminal investigations. Laboratories can now test many amounts of DNA samples in comparison to when forensic testing was first implemented (Donahue and Perlin, 2018). Advanced ballistics photography is another change in criminal investigations since the 1980s that has been and can be used to identify how suspected murder weapons can be linked to murder cases. Noticeable how shell casings can be found at crime scenes and can be directly linked back to specific guns that could potentially have the same firing pattern, barrel markings, and gun discharge (Baird, 2017). Forensic ballistics has advanced considerably since the specific field became notable in the 1920s. Experts within this field used comparison microscopes to compare the similarities between specific bullets and cartridge cases. Since the 1980s, ballistic experts have focused on computer software that helps them manipulate and compare images (Johnson, 2010). Essentially, analysts can now use advanced ballistic technology due to 3D imaging. This improvement can help analysts determine where a specific weapon was fired based on shells and cartridges (Kaelin, 2015).
Overall, forensics has played an instrumental role in evolving criminal investigations in Wales. Its constant advancements since the 1980s from DNA forensics to the technological advancements of digital forensics. Forensics has opened the door to a wide range of investigative strategies mentioned that will continue to advance as well as create new and improved forms. There has been a large noticeable change in how criminal investigations work in Wales since the 1980s due to the constant improvements within the field of forensic science.