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Maori views of forensic DNA evidence: an instrument of justice or criminalizing technology?

Abstract

DNA profiling is just one of many tools available to police in a criminal investigation. However, unlike any other criminal investigative tool, DNA profiling has captured the public imagination. Its portrayal in popular fiction has given rise to the “CSI effect”, whereby the weight and credibility of science, combined with the predictive potential of DNA, produce an aura of infallibility and certainty only amplified by creative license. Genetic material holds particular significance for Indigenous peoples, establishing identity and group membership, as well as associated rights. This taonga (treasure) status entails particular sensitivities regarding its handling and use; these have been well explored in health, but less so in the forensic context. This article presents professional and lay Māori perspectives on forensic DNA technologies in New Zealand, highlighting the inseparability of these from Indigenous experiences of criminalization but also their value in informing operational, ethical and justice-oriented considerations.

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