TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Supermarket: Let Your Fingers do the Paying

Re: Supermarket: Let Your Fingers do the Paying

Graeme Thomas (graeme@withheld)
Mon, 7 Feb 2005 14:03:31 +0000

In article <>, AES
<> writes:

[ But if you decide to print it, PAT, please remove my email address. ]

> As examples, fingerprint analysis has considerable validity, but not
> nearly as much as law enforcement agencies would have you believe;

Right. In the right circumstances fingerprint evidence is reliable.
The law enforcement agencies don't mention much about what those
circumstances are, though. Basically, if a good, clean fingerprint
can be found then the chances of a false match are minuscule. But
those chances rise fairly sharply if there's only a partial
fingerprint available.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: What you say is very true. What do you
> think about the newest gimmick, DNA-printing? Police seem to be
> making a big thing out of building up their DNA files at this time.
> They *claim* it is much more reliable than fingerprinting, and they
> *claim* one's DNA is absolutely unique, but they said that about
> fingerprints at one time also. PAT]

From what I can gather a complete DNA match is impossible, with the
possible exception of identical twins. However, many of the existing
DNA tests only perform partial matching, and the possibility of a
match again rises sharply.

In the UK the police have been using DNA matching for quite a while,
and there are regular stories of people being charged with old crimes,
after they've given a DNA sample for some unrelated offence. Most
such people end up convicted of the old crime. (I have some worries
over that. How could anyone be expected to come up with an alibi
after several years have elapsed? Can *you* remember what you were
doing on one particular evening 15 years ago?)

One such person *was* able to prove he was innocent of the crime,
though. Records showed that he was in prison at the time of the
offence. The DNA evidence had already shown a match. There was some
hasty reorganization after that in the DNA labs, and they started
trying to identify the DNA with greater precision. It's now
foolproof, apparently. I imagine that they'll stick with that view
until another fool comes along with a cast-iron alibi.

Graeme Thomas

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