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Use of DNA Evidence in Historical Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Human DNA is unique. The importance of DNA evidence in crime investigation in general and historical child sexual abuse specifically, cannot be overstated. The probability that two different people have identical DNA is almost 1 in a billion, which speaks directly to the particular importance of DNA research in various fields: from the investigation of criminal offences, especially sexual offence cases, to the identification of unknown persons or the identification of kinship. Thus, DNA testing is essential on both public and private grounds.

DNA evidence has significantly contributed to crime investigations in Australia and worldwide and only grows in importance.

DNA profiling was first used in the mid-1980s in the Narborough Village murder investigation in the United Kingdom. Since then, DNA evidence has been crucial in deciding whether to prosecute, influencing the jury’s conclusions, and indirectly important in imposing a longer sentence.

DNA Database

Understanding the importance of DNA in investigating crimes, especially sexual offences, almost all developed countries create and maintain their own databases of DNA profiles.

The United Kingdom has the National DNA Database (NDNAD).

The United States has the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), and Canada has the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).

Australia has a National Criminal Investigation DNA Database (NCIDD), which was created back in 2001. 

NCIDD contains a set of DNA profiles of convicted criminals. Police and forensic scientists can access it. Comparing data from NCIDD and DNA samples from crime scenes is necessary. 

The database is intra-jurisdictional, meaning all Australian state and territory databases are linked, and DNA profiles can be shared. Beyond that, there is a clear need for cross-state data sharing as well. In 2014, Justice Minister Michael Keenan announced that Australia was entering into a pilot program with the USA, the United Kingdom, and Canada about international DNA information sharing.

In 2014, NCIDD already contained 830,000 DNA profiles, which is obviously growing. For example, in 2018, that number was more than 837,000 profiles.

DNA in sexual assault cases

During sexual assault investigations, DNA evidence can confirm or disprove a defendant’s guilt in the case, such as institutional and historical child sexual abuse. It is often an essential tool in obtaining justice for survivors of historical child sexual abuse.

The main advantages of a forensic examination in sexual assault cases are the following:

– Increased likelihood of identifying the perpetrator. 

DNA sample analysis allows forensic examiners to compare the offender’s profile to the extensive NCIDD database.

– Increased likelihood of bringing the perpetrator to justice. 

More often than not, DNA evidence carries weight in a court case. Many sexual assault cases are based on the survivor’s testimony and DNA evidence. Such evidence lends more credibility to the charge. However, the potential for error during the examination should be noticed, as there is the possibility of contamination of comparative material during the sampling or examination process. Therefore, DNA evidence should be evaluated in conjunction with other evidence in the case.

– Prevents perpetrators from committing sexual abuse in the future. 

The database keeps DNA samples of perpetrators who have already been in the database once. Investigating subsequent crimes will be easier if there is a match.

Examples of the Beneficial Use of DNA Evidence in Historical Child Sexual Abuse Cases

There are numerous cases where the use of DNA technology has helped in the investigation of Institutional child sexual abuse, Historical child sexual abuse cases that took place decades ago and have remained unsolved to this day.

One example of the impressive use of DNA evidence is the recent exposure of the grandfather of three children, Keith Simms, as one of the worst serial rapists in Australia.

Simms, nicknamed “The Bondi Beast,” was involved in 31 sexual assaults in Sydney’s eastern suburbs between 1985 and 2001. Simms stalked women between the ages of 14 and 55, which included breaking into homes or abducting women while jogging or walking.

One of his victims was raped on April 10, 1989, at 4 am at age 14.

Thus, even children were sexually abused.

Over time, survivors of sexual violence described the perpetrator as a thin man and then a muscular man. The parameters of height constantly ranged from 160-180 centimetres. However, he was always described as having a swarthy face, a broad nose, dark wavy hair, and brown eyes.

Recent advances in DNA have finally made it possible to identify the attacker. It happened almost 40 years after he attacked his first victim.

Police could reach Keith Simms by obtaining forensic evidence, including the results of additional Y-STR testing, which analyzes the paternal lineage of the genealogical tree.

The police had a relatively extensive list of individuals who might have been involved in, among other things, historical child sexual abuse cases. During six intense years of work, the police identified a single person – a DNA carrier.

However, Keith Simms died of kidney disease in February 2022, seven months before police could determine his criminal involvement. 

His family knew nothing of who he was, and survivors of sexual abuse could sigh of relief but wish him a painful death.

It follows from what we have written that DNA technology, which has come to a new level in recent decades, allows survivors of historical child sexual abuse to hope for justice. All perpetrators will be punished.

If you or someone you know would like to talk to one of our historical sexual abuse specialists, for free and in confidence, about your legal options, please feel free to either complete the form below with the best way and the best time to contact you, or you can call us on 02 9283 5599.

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