A logical framework for forensic DNA interpretation

Tacha Hicks*, John Buckleton, Vincent Castella, Ian Evett, Graham Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


The forensic community has devoted much effort over the last decades to the development of a logical framework for forensic interpretation, which is essential for the safe administration of justice. We review the research and guidelines that have been published and provide examples of how to implement them in casework. After a discussion on uncertainty in the criminal trial and the roles that the DNA scientist may take, we present the principles of interpretation for evaluative reporting. We show how their application helps to avoid a common fallacy and present strategies that DNA scientists can apply so that they do not transpose the conditional. We then discuss the hierarchy of propositions and explain why it is considered a fundamental concept for the evaluation of biological results and the differences between assessing results given propositions that are at the source level or the activity level. We show the importance of pre-assessment, especially when the questions relate to the alleged activities, and when transfer and persistence need to be considered by the scientists to guide the court. We conclude with a discussion on statement writing and testimony. This provides guidance on how DNA scientists can report in a balanced, transparent, and logical way.
Original languageEnglish
Article number957
Number of pages26
Issue number6
Early online date27 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2022


  • DNA
  • Forensic
  • Principles of interpretation
  • Investigative
  • Evaluative
  • Reporting
  • LR
  • Propositions
  • Activity issues
  • Transfer


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