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The Complexity of Evidence-based Forensic Interpretation

Regan, Michaela; (2017) The Complexity of Evidence-based Forensic Interpretation. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The 2009 NAS report (US) and the 2011 Law commission report (UK) highlighted concerns within forensic science and presented the need for evidence bases to underpin the interpretation of forensic evidence. Such evidence bases are critical for forensic science to demonstrate the basis upon which the significance of evidence is inferred. However, this has instigated a lively debate concerning the use of experimental studies as a means of providing more robust, reproducible and empirical based interpretation of forensic evidence. Thus, the aim of this thesis was to explore the need to improve communication between forensic scientists and lawyers due to the complexity of implementing an evidence base in forensic science. This research sought to gain insight into: (1) the degree to which experimental studies concerning evidence dynamics of trace particles such as gunshot residue (GSR) can assist in the interpretation of activity level reconstruction and (2) the receptivity of lawyers and forensic scientists to the use of experimental studies. A series of experimental studies addressing the deposition, persistence and analysis of GSR identified that there is value in performing experimental studies to understand the information that can or cannot be inferred from the evidence. As a result, there is a need for clear communication of forensic findings by forensic scientists and criminal lawyers to ensure that the interpretation of forensic evidence in court is as transparent as possible. Questionnaire responses provided insight into the perspective of criminal lawyers and forensic scientists on the use of experimental studies to underpin interpretation. The findings indicated that most forensic scientists and criminal lawyers do not tend to use the published literature to support evidence interpretation. This highlights a need to ensure that research is available to both forensic scientists and criminal lawyers in a format that is accessible and pertinent to their requirements. Increasing channels of communication and enabling collaboration between forensic scientists and criminal lawyers is therefore highly desirable for ensuring the interpretation of forensic evidence in court incorporates empirical findings. Both studies indicate that there are significant complexities for implementing evidence-based interpretation. There is therefore a need to improve the lines of communication between criminal lawyers and forensic scientists to ensure that (1) research is more forensically relevant and thus useful and (2) evidence is placed under sufficient scrutiny in court by having the different stakeholders have a clear understanding of the findings.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: The Complexity of Evidence-based Forensic Interpretation
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1572579
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