Shotgun Conspiracy and DNA transfer
R v X, Harrow Crown Court, April 2019:
After a string of fraud cases, I was instructed in a case alleging conspiracy to possess shotguns. The case hinged on DNA evidence. DNA evidence is often used in criminal cases, see for example, where it has been used in murder cases – R v P.
In this case, four men had already been convicted of being part of the conspiracy, after a police surveillance operation led to their arrest. One of the men had been described in the press as “A dangerous and determined armed robber . . . . who escaped jail last year by scaling a 30ft wall and climbing through razor wire, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.’
Telephone evidence linked my client to this man, and to another man who police had seen in possession of shotguns. Worse than that though, my client’s DNA had been found on two shotguns when he said he had no knowledge of them.
The defence case concentrated therefore on explaining the telephone contact, and – more importantly – on how his DNA might have been transferred onto the shotguns . This entailed a careful analysis of where the firearms had been and how they may have come into innocent contact with the client’s DNA.
A defence expert report details the way in which DNA can be transferred by primary, secondary, tertiary and even quaternary transfer; it is possible for DNA to be deposited on an item by someone talking over that item, or from the use of a piece of material containing DNA. In this case, the guns had been – unbeknown to him – stored in his house by someone else and quite possibly stored in, or wiped down by, material that would have contained his DNA.
After hearing all the evidence the jury found my client not guilty.
DNA evidence can be quite complex, but a good grasp of it can pay dividends in challenging a prosecution case, particularly as DNA evidence is now obtained as a matter of routine.
I have challenged DNA in this way in cases of murder, serious sexual offences such as rape, and large-scale drugs cases.