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Gold Coast Session 3 Session 3
Online Session 3 Session 3

Unit Summary

Unit type

UG Coursework Unit

Credit points

12

AQF level

7

Level of learning

Intermediate

Former School/College

Former School of Law and Justice

Unit aim

Introduces students to DNA profiling, its scientific basis and historical development. Students will learn how DNA profiling is performed and explore the philosophical background to the science. Focusing on the Australian context, the unit will examine the use of DNA in court proceedings and study key cases where DNA has been utilised. The unit will also look at how developments may affect future civil and criminal court proceedings and evidence law generally.

Unit content

Topic 1: What is DNA profiling?

  • What is DNA?
  • Scientific basis of DNA profiling
  • Historical development
  • Scientific development
  • Legal recognition

Topic 2: How is DNA profiling performed?

  • Collection/extraction
  • PCR
  • Profile generation
  • Applications – identification (Disaster Victim Identification, unknown deceased), paternity, crime scene samples
  • LCN
  • Y chromosome profiling
  • Mitochondrial analysis

Topic 3: Mathematical basis of DNA profiling

  • Probability
  • Statistical analysis
  • Population genetics

Topic 4: Philosophical background to science

  • Deduction, induction & empiricism
  • Limitations of current scientific approaches
  • Ethical issues with genetic information eg ownership rights in biological material, privacy
  • Relevance to DNA evidence eg consent to sampling
  • New technology and its introduction into forensic setting
  • Universal databases

Topic 5: The Law

  • Forensic Procedures legislation:
    • NSW & Cth
    • Overseas comparison (UK, USA + others)
  • Collecting samples
  • Testing samples
  • Maintaining forensic DNA databases

Topic 6: DNA in court proceedings

  • Civil proceedings
  • Criminal trials
  • Evidence law generally – eg relevance, unfairly prejudicial
  • Expert evidence
  • Standards for DNA (and all scientific) evidence
  • DNA evidence, including role of statistics and probability
  • Key cases
  • How could it be improved?
    • Court-appointed experts
    • Assistance to fact finder
    • Minimising misrepresentation
    • 'Hot-tubbing'

Topic 7: Wrongful convictions/acquittals

  • Double jeopardy principles
  • Wrongful convictions (vs 'miscarriage of justice')
    • Australian law and examples
    • Innocence projects – USA, Australia, Innocence/DNA Review Panels
  • Wrongful acquittals
    • Australian law and examples

Topic 8: Future developments

  • Privatisation of forensic DNA analysis
  • Universal databases
  • 'On the spot' DNA analysis
  • Phenotyping
  • Familial/kinship searching

Learning outcomes

Unit Learning Outcomes express learning achievement in terms of what a student should know, understand and be able to do on completion of a unit. These outcomes are aligned with the graduate attributes. The unit learning outcomes and graduate attributes are also the basis of evaluating prior learning.

GA1: , GA2: , GA3: , GA4: , GA5: , GA6: , GA7:
On completion of this unit, students should be able to: GA1 GA2 GA3 GA4 GA5 GA6 GA7
1 demonstrate knowledge of the theoretical basis, foundational assumptions and central tenants relating DNA analysis.
2 demonstrate knowledge of the evidentiary value of DNA evidence in the Australian setting, how such evidence may be admitted and the significance of such expert opinion in the courts.
3 apply critical judgment including analysis, reasoning and appropriately directed research to the role of DNA evidence in the courts.
4 comment on the policy issues which arise when the disciplines of law and science intersect.

On completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge of the theoretical basis, foundational assumptions and central tenants relating DNA analysis.
    • GA4:
  2. demonstrate knowledge of the evidentiary value of DNA evidence in the Australian setting, how such evidence may be admitted and the significance of such expert opinion in the courts.
    • GA4:
  3. apply critical judgment including analysis, reasoning and appropriately directed research to the role of DNA evidence in the courts.
    • GA1:
    • GA2:
  4. comment on the policy issues which arise when the disciplines of law and science intersect.
    • GA1:
    • GA2:
    • GA4:

Prescribed texts

  • Smith, M, 2015, DNA Evidence in the Australian Legal System, LexisNexis, Sydney. ISBN: 9780409343267 .
Prescribed texts may change in future teaching periods.