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  Developing a forensic DNA legislative framework and policy for Africa (Ref: SF22/HLS/APP/AMANKWAA)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr Aaron Amankwaa  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The use of forensic DNA and national DNA databases (NDNAD) has gained popularity in criminal investigations globally [1]. While the technology has been embraced in Europe and other high-income countries, its use and regulation are still at an infant stage in Africa [2]. The lack of forensic DNA legal frameworks, policies, and guidelines poses a challenge to the fight against cross-border crime, protection of public security and human rights in Africa. DNA data can assist the police in identifying criminals, missing persons, or deceased individuals. However, it can reveal sensitive information about an individual, including their ancestry, susceptibility to diseases, and family ties. Considering this, several countries/ regions worldwide have adopted legislation and policies to govern the use of DNA and databases for investigative purposes.

In Europe, the EU Prüm DNA exchange framework has been successful in enhancing cross-border cooperation in criminal investigations by establishing a common DNA database exchange system, with safeguards to protect the civil liberties of individuals. In the UK, the PACE Act 1984 regulates the use of forensic DNA and the NDNAD, with dedicated bodies to govern the proportionate use of DNA data. In South Africa, the use of DNA in criminal investigations has been governed by the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013. Most African countries, however, lack adequate forensic DNA legal frameworks and policies, leading to potential human rights violations, privacy breaches and missed intelligence opportunities [3]. This research aims to develop an international legislative framework and policy to govern the use of forensic DNA and databases, and the exchange of forensic DNA data in Africa, drawing from developments in countries/ regions, such as South Africa, the UK, and the EU.

The research methodology will involve a review of existing literature, legal frameworks, and policies governing the use of forensic DNA and databases in South Africa and Europe, and stakeholder interviews. The literature review and legal/policy analysis will provide key insight into the degree of consensus across different countries and identify best practices. Finally, stakeholder interviews will be conducted with legal experts, law enforcement agencies, forensic scientists, civil society organizations, and policymakers in African countries to gather insights into the challenges and opportunities of implementing a forensic DNA legislative framework and policy.

Using the research outcomes, the successful candidate will work with the Forensic DNA Policy Board: Africa (FDPBA) to develop a DNA legislative framework and policy document that will be presented to the African Union for review and adoption by AU member states. The research will contribute to the protection of public security, human rights, and privacy by providing guidelines for the collection, analysis, storage, use, and destruction of DNA samples/ data. Additionally, the research will enhance cross-border cooperation in criminal investigations by establishing a common DNA database exchange system, similar to the EU Prüm framework. Finally, the research will highlight the challenges and opportunities of implementing a legal framework and policy for the use of forensic DNA in Africa.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

•      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non- UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above)

•      Appropriate IELTS score, if required

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: All applications must include a covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert). Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF22/…) will not be considered.


Deadline for applications: Ongoing

Start Date: 1st October and 1st March are the standard cohort start dates each year.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Informal enquiries to Dr Aaron Amankwaa ([Email Address Removed]

Biological Sciences (4) Forensic and Archaeological Sciences (16) Law (22) Philosophy (28) Politics & Government (30)

Funding Notes

This project is fully self-funded and available to applicants worldwide.
Tuition fees will depend on the running cost of the individual project, in line with University fee bands found at The fee band will be discussed and agreed at interview stage.
Most laboratory-based PhDs in the Department of Applied Sciences are band 3 or 4.


[1] Amankwaa AO. Forensic DNA retention: Public perspective studies in the United Kingdom and around the world. Science & Justice 2018;58:455–64.
[2] INTERPOL. INTERPOL Global DNA Profiling Survey Results 2019. Lyon, France: INTERPOL; 2019.
[3] Amankwaa AO, Amankwa Addo J. Forensic DNA analysis and database governance in Ghana. In: Toom V, Wienroth M, M’charek A, editors. Law, Practice and Politics of Forensic DNA Profiling. 1st ed., London: Routledge; 2022, p. 56–71.

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