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Criminal Genes and Public Policy
Summary: This project provided the first consideration of the policy implications of behavioural genetics in one specific area through a consultation with professionals working in the criminal justice system and with 'at risk' young people and their families.
Principal Investigator: Mairi Levitt (Politics, Philosophy and Religion PPR)
The current interest in genetic factors in criminal behaviour has focused primarily on violent crime and recurrent antisocial behaviour, including research into monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) deficiency and its interaction with environmental factors (Brunner et al, 1993; Caspi et al, 2002). Public engagement work has included consultation on behavioural genetics in general and on gene testing (Nuffield Council, 2002, Campbell and Ross, 2004). This study looks specifically at 'criminal' genes and examines possible implications of genetic factors in criminal behaviour for the criminal justice system. The recent Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report (May 2005) recommended information gathering and consultation on the topic. This project focuses upon ideas of responsibility, blame and mitigating factors in the treatment of offenders through an examination and comparison of philosophical argumentation, media coverage (in press and scientific journals) and the views of key stakeholder groups e.g. probation officers, social workers, police and the legal profession.
Research on the role of genes and environment in anti-social behaviour has highlighted the possibility of specific and personalised environmental interventions in childhood, targeting those individuals most 'at risk'. Apart from the ethical and social issues raised by collection and storage of genetic information of this type, there are also issues of justice and equality in the use of genetic information and allocation of services. In this project stakeholder groups will be given the opportunity to consider possible implications of the research for their professional work. The focus group research will be supplemented by interviews with key policy experts/advisors and researchers working in the field. A policy workshopwas held in September 2007 to disseminate the findings and consider further research needs.research findings arepublished in articles in Bioethics and New Genetics and Society.