what is forensic science?
Blood drop (Richard Jones 2015)
Forensic science is the application of scientific principles to questions of forensic (or legal) importance. Any branch of science may be of assistance in answering those questions, but of particular importance are:
- biological science - DNA/ molecular biology, serology etc
- chemistry - toxicology, paint analysis etc
- physical evidence examination - toolmarks, ballistics etc
- fire and explosion reconstructions/ interpretation etc
- forensic specialties allied to forensic pathology (e.g. forensic entomology, anthropology, odontology, botany etc)
Read an 'overview' article on forensic science ('How science solves crimes') in Time magazine (21/10/2002) here ..
Read the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report 'Forensic science on trial' paper here ...
Visit the BBC website here for an article on crime scene investigation, including an interactive 360 degree 'scene' to be explored!
In any legitimate justice system, ... truth must play a paramount and integral role... The very survival of the rule of law depends not only on a justice system that administers the law fairly, but a system that is just by being well-grounded in ... truth ...[M]ore research is needed in the techniques and science already in use. With the importance of forensic science to truth and justice, the science employed and relied upon by judges and juries must be valid. It does not matter how well forensic scientists abide by testing protocols, or how reliable the techniques are, if the underlying science does not actually reveal what the expert says it does. Method validation studies and new research must be on-going even in the area of traditional forensic disciplines.
Melson KE. The journey to justice. Journal of Forensic Sciences 2003; 48:705
Sir Alec Jeffreys on DNA 'fingerprinting'
Read about interviews with Alec Jeffreys here ...
More resources on DNA 'fingerprinting'
- create a DNA fingerprint animation
- DNA and the Dr Sam Shepard case (read more about the case at Wikipedia)
- Colin Pitchfork - DNA profiling used successfully for the first time in a murder trial in the UK
- learn more about genetics and take part in a gel electrophoresis laboratory interactive animation
- DNA forensics at the Human Genome Project
- DNA profiling (Wikipedia)
- DNA in the courtroom - online book developed in preparation for the OJ Simpson trial in the USA
- how DNA evidence works - via How Stuff Works
Historical illustration of fingerprint dusting in a forensic science laborratory (pre-DNA era)
Source: Science Against Crime, Kind S
forensic science in action - Stephen Lawrence murder
18-year-old teenager, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered by a gang of racist youths in Well Hall Road, Eltham, South London on 22nd April 1993. Two members of that gang, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convcted of his murder on 3rd January 2012.
Stephen had been stabbed to a depth of about five inches on both sides of the front of his body to the chest and arm. Both stab wounds severed axillary arteries, and blood must literally have been pumping out of and into his body as he ran up the road to join his friend. In the words of Dr Shepherd, the pathologist, "It is surprising that he managed to get 130 yards with all the injuries he had, but also the fact that the deep penetrating wound of the right side caused the upper lobe to partially collapse his lung. It is therefore a testimony to Stephen's physical fitness that he was able to run the distance he did before collapsing".
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 1999 Chapter 1 para 1.7
Crucial fibre and bloodstain evidence was adduced in the trial of Dobson and Norris - see the full-sized version of the above graphic, and read about this evidence at the Channel 4 News site here ...
Read more about this case:
DNA via the Khan Academy
forensics under fire
crime scene investigation: graphic novel-style
trace evidence: graphic novel-style
Demise of the Forensic Science Service
The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee (27th April 2011) which examined the demise of the Forensic Science Service.
Read the transcript here ...
And watch the evidence of Jeremy Brown MP to the Committee at a 'follow-up' session, in which he appears to struggle to describe what the Government strategy is now for the future provision and development of forensic science in England and Wales, save for the devolvement of forensic science to private providers.
crime scene investigation: lego-style
forensic science links
- forensic science (Wikipedia)
- forensic science links (Delicious)
- The Forensic Science Regulator
- crime scene (Wikipedia)
- crime scene search patterns animation (Flash animation at NFSTC)
- Edmond Locard (Wikipedia)
- National Academy of Forensic Sciences
- American Board of Criminalists
- the president's DNA initiative (USA)
- DNA surveillance - going too far? (video)
- all about forensic science (blog)
- the CSI-effect (Wikipedia)
- DNA extraction 'virtual laboratory' (flash animation)
- DNA interactive website
- DNA from the beginning (animations)
- DNA forensics (human genome project)
- DNA profiling (Wikipedia)
- bloodspatter analysis tutorial
- bloodspatter animation (Flash animation at NFSTC)
- notes on cocaine-related deaths (flash paper)
- toxicology links (del.icio.us)
- toxicology reference resources (connotea)
- American Board of Forensic Toxicology
- forensic science timeline
- crimeline - history of forensic science timeline
- crime and clues
- autopsy of a murder- interactive animation of a crime scene (Montreal Science Centre)
- fundamentals of forensic science (via scribd, to read online)
- innocence project
forensic science for school students
- forensic science: fundamentals and investigations (teachers resource)
- the forensic teacher magazine
- forensic science - let the evidence reveal itself
- forensic sceince library at 'how stuff works'
- National Association of High School Teachers of Forensic Science
- forensic science worksheets (for high school students)
- forensics illustrated - 'step under the tape'
- Forensic education wiki
- what can you learn from a DNA test? (National Archives podcast)
- National Archive - Jack the Ripper educational resources (including a teaching pack)
- forensic science resources at New Scientist magazine online
- eyewitness forensic science via Scribd (to read online)