Scientists: the discovery of «genes of the offender» will affect the justice system

© Fotolia / angellodecoРабота laboratory for DNA researchScientists: the discovery of «genes of the offender» will affect the justice system© Fotolia / angellodeco

Detection of new variations of genes that make a person more likely to commit crimes is unlikely to affect the operation of the justice system due to the conflicting nature of their effect on human behavior, say scientists in an article published in the journal Nature of Human Behaviour.

«The judge and the jury may find the accused less guilty of a crime if they have similar variations in the genes. But on the other hand, their presence would be to say that these same people have more likely to become repeat offenders due to the fact that they can’t control their behavior. Both of these things add up to zero,» — says Paul Appelbaum (Paul Appelbaum) of the Psychiatric Institute of new York (USA).

In recent years genetics have revealed several dozen mutations in different genes related to human behavior, whose presence in the DNA of an individual makes him more impulsive, prone to physical abuse, inappropriate behavior while intoxicated and unnecessary risk.

The presence of a large number of such «typos» in the genome, as today, some scholars believe that make a person more likely to commit crimes. For example, observation of the residents Dunedin in New Zealand show that carriers of the «bad» version of the MAOA gene is associated with impulsive and antisocial behavior, commit about 40% of crimes in the area, despite their small numbers.

Many other geneticists, and specialists in law and psychologists disagree with these conclusions because in the end, according to this group of experts, they can lead to the fact that humanity will be divided into two large groups – the potential «criminals» whose freedom of action is limited, and «normal people». In addition, the presence of such DNA regions in the genome of the suspects could make a jury or judges to consider them guilty of deliberately and unnecessarily send them to jail.

Appelbaum and his colleague Nicolas Skaric (Nicholas Scurich) from the University of California, Irvine (USA), in turn, believe that the discovery of such genes will have virtually no impact on the work of the justice system, since judges may be completely different look for their presence or absence in the DNA of suspects.

An ambivalent attitude to the «criminal genes», as the researchers note, due to the fact that judges are interested in not only the motives of the crime and awareness of actions criminal, but how likely is it that a convicted person will become a repeat offender in the future.

Something like that, as the researchers note, has already been observed in the judicial practice in the United States – on average, sentences in carriers of the «bad» version of the MAOA gene and other genes «criminal» is actually no different than getting punished for similar crimes of others.

In the future if genetics will open up other areas of DNA that affect human behavior are much stronger and more clearly, the situation may change. However, Appelbaum and Skaric I doubt that even these genetic arguments can influence the decisions of judges.

«While such stretches of DNA are opened, the frequency of the use of genetic data in the judicial system is likely to decrease in the near future. Moreover, at the moment the courts work justice at all levels if they are not based on such information», — concludes the scientist.