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To what extent can forensic evidence aid in the investigation and prosecution of internal child sex trafficking (ICST)?

7 March 2012

Helen Brayley

This multi-method, cross-disciplinary project brings together elements from both the physical and the social sciences. The context for this work is set through the analysis of forensic strategies employed in current and recently completed investigations into a form of complex child sex abuse.

Interviews with lead Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) and Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) from a number of police forces across the UK, coupled with a police questionnaire focusing on forensic application and knowledge, will provide in-depth understanding of the restrictions faced by the police. It will also ensure that solutions suggested within this thesis are achievable and realistic.

The main focus of this thesis is the development of one aspect of forensic evidence currently overlooked in police investigations. In some cases of ICST the offenders ejaculate onto the victims during the sexual abuse, resulting in semen stained clothing. This project hypothesises that a 16 STR loci DNA profile, currently the standard for inclusion in UK courts, could still be achieved by extracting DNA from these stained then laundered clothes.

Due to the use of human tissue (spermatozoa) in the experimental part of this project, it has been approved by the National Research Ethics Council. Police data and support has been secured for this work from a number of different forces as well as support from the UKHTC. All experimental work is being completed with the support of UCL’s Genetics, Evolution and Environment department.