DNA - det sikreste av detsikre eller…?: En sosiologisk studie av usikkerheter knyttet til bruk av DNA i strafferettspleien
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Today’s society is considered a security seeking one. Forensic DNA is often presented as a tool to increase security. However, insecurities also follow in its wake. This thesis discusses such insecurities from a sociological perspective. In Norway, this thesis is the first work in this field, the first social science-based empirical research on the use of forensic DNA evidence and DNA databases. Hence this thesis may contribute to the conception of such uses, both within public debate and the expanding research field on the matter. Data gathered through qualitative methods are used to answer the research questions raised in the thesis. Qualitative interviews with stakeholders on DNA-matters such as lawyers, police, and expert witnesses are the main source of data. Additionally, official political documents in relation to the expansion of the Norwegian forensic DNA database are analyzed. This thesis consists of an introduction and four articles, all discussing insecurities in relation to the use of forensic DNA. The order in which the articles are presented may be seen as following forensic DNA chronologically into and within the criminal justice process. In the first article, the roles and impacts of numbers and statistics in crime policy decision making processes are discussed, using video surveillance and DNA databasing as examples. For both initiatives, persuasive but faulty statistics which demonstrated impressive effects played an important role in the early stages of the decision making processes. The aim of this article is to contribute to the research on political decision making processes, with its focus on the impact of numbers and statistics at different stages of the processes. In the second article DNA has reached the courtroom. By using the metaphor of a criminal case as a jigsaw puzzle this article analyses defense lawyers perceptions of securities and insecurities in relation to the use of DNA evidence in court. For many of the involved agents, DNA evidence seems to be black boxed. The black-boxing of influential technologies may contribute to insecurity. DNA is still in the courtroom in the third article which analyses a special situation in a Norwegian context, namely the use of second opinion on DNA evidence. It is argued that the use of second opinion may open, or reopen, the black boxes for several of the informants, hence leading to increased security. Exploring the notion of function creep, the fourth and last article addresses DNA stored in the database, investigating how and why function creep has taken place in such databases. Drawing on examples from the English and Welsh National DNA database, possible future function creeps are also discussed. The aim of the article is to elaborate on the concept of function creep, but also to enhance focus on safeguards that might render function creep on forensic DNA databases governable. While the thesis is explorative, some policy options are also discussed. Based on the empirical analyses, which point out sources of insecurity potentially generated through the use of DNA evidence and DNA databasing, it becomes evident that greater transparency and a continuing critical watchfulness are needed. Black boxing of technologies hampers transparency and watchfulness; use of second opinion, improved governance, and increase knowledge can enhance them.