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  • br Conclusion br Conflict of interest br Introduction The se

    2019-08-22


    Conclusion
    Conflict of interest
    Introduction The sexual exploitation and internal trafficking of British children within the UK has received growing public and policy attention in recent years. This has largely been in response to a number of high profile police investigations into cases involving teenage victims who had been sexually exploited by groups of adults across the UK [1]. Instances of sexual abuse in these cases involved multiple perpetrators committing child sexual offences in a variety of public and private locations to which victims were transported or ‘trafficked’ from close by or from another town or county. The children involved rarely acknowledged their own victimisation for a variety of reasons, including fear, shame and a normalisation of sexualised behaviour [2]. In many cases there was also a long lag time between the offences taking place and the subsequent police investigation, further complicating the prosecution of offenders [3]. For the purpose of this paper, the term internal child sex trafficking (ICST) shall be used in reference to the movement and sexual exploitation of children involving multiple offenders, as outlined in Brayley and Cockbain [4]. It has been identified that despite the sexual health risks and forensic potential of TDZD-8 deposition, many sexual offenders do not use contraceptive protection during a sexual assault. In one study of multiple-perpetrator rapes, only 20% of offenders wore a condom during an attack [5]. Ejaculate left inside the victim, if still present, may be gathered during a routine forensic medical examination and is a well-known source of evidence for police. From a study of ICST cases, it was similarly found that offenders commonly did not use a condom and would often ejaculate directly onto the body or clothes of a victim [3]. In some ICST cases, it was identified that victims hid their semen-stained clothing from parents or carers to avoid having to discuss the assault [3]. Rather than discarding the clothes completely, it was observed that victims often stored the clothing for a period of time, ranging from several hours to over a year, before washing the items to remove the visible stains. It is therefore possible for DNA from the offender(s) to remain on these items of clothing. To date, such laundered items of clothing are not routinely examined in ICST cases, due to the assumption that the lag time, along with the laundering process, will have removed any detectable DNA from the deposited semen [3]. The internal trafficking of humans for the purpose of sexual exploitation was only formally acknowledged in UK law with the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This piece of legislation relates to the exploitation of both adults and children but has to date rarely been used to prosecute ICST offenders. When ICST cases have gone to court the prosecution has relied heavily on victim accounts and testimony, and have rarely been supported by corroborating forensic science evidence [3]. It is therefore important to assess the viability of forensic analysis on items recovered during the investigation of these cases, as DNA profiles obtained from semen-stained laundered clothing may offer further evidence in future investigations and trials. A small number of published empirical studies have demonstrated that spermatozoa cells can persist on items of clothing after they have been laundered in a washing machine, using various wash programmes, detergents and temperatures [6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], and that DNA profiles can be obtained from laundered semen stains [6], [8], [9], [10]. Importantly, none of these papers investigated whether DNA profiles can be obtained from laundered semen stains where there has been a significant lag time between semen deposition and washing, along with semen deposited from more than one source, or, multiple washes of the stained clothing. All of these circumstances are more prevalent in ICST cases. It was therefore the aim of this study to examine whether viable DNA profiles could be recovered from laundered semen stains under conditions pertinent to the investigation of ICST and other sexual assault cases.