Science & justice : journal of the Forensic Science Society

The acid phosphatase test two minute cut-off: an insufficient time to detect some semen stains.

PMID 23601727


The ability to detect semen in sexual offence cases is a crucial first step to locating stains which may be suitable for DNA profiling. Since the development of the acid phosphatase test in the late 1950s by Stuart S. Kind, the process undertaken to perform the test has gone largely unchanged. The method currently accepted by operational forensic science laboratories allows 2 min for a reaction to be obtained, and until relatively recently, this has not been challenged. In this research, samples of semen were obtained from three donors and a range of dilutions for each sample were prepared. Each dilution was subjected to acid phosphatase testing using both direct testing and the 'press test' method. The results showed that semen could be detected in excess of 15 min in dilutions up to 1 in 400 using the press test method and in dilutions up to 1 in 1000 using the direct method. Of further significance was the observation that using the press test method, the two minute cut-off was insufficient to detect the majority of stains and in some cases, semen stains as strong as 1 in 20 dilutions. This research provides compelling evidence for protocols currently utilised in forensic practice to be reviewed in order that forensic scientists do not overlook potential evidential material that may prove suitable for body fluid identification such as DNA STR profiling.

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