Issue 4 September 2012 w: www.ucl.ac.uk/forensic-sciences e: firstname.lastname@example.org @UCLForensicSci
in this issue: • The changing face of forensic services in the UK now that the Forensic Science Service has been dissolved • Major review of the forensic evidence used in over 10,000 criminal cases in the US may lead to more guilty verdicts being overturned • The 6th International Crime Science Conference - we profile one of the forensic science sessions • Exploring future collaborations • Reaching out to school students and encouraging them to study STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) subjects - a profile of recent events • Upcoming events and news in forensic science
The changing face of forensic services in the UK In June police services in the East Midlands reported on1 their new East Midlands Special Operations Unit – Forensic Services (EMSOUFS) which opened a “state of the art” Identification Bureau on 19th June, launched by James Brokenshire MP (Minister for Crime and Security). The EMSOU-FS was created out of collaboration between Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire police services and works on analysis, identification and crime scene investigation. Early reports suggest that offenders are being identified much more rapidly since the EMSOU-FS started work in April 2012, and the hope is that this unit will save more than £9.5 million for the three police services over a four year period. Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon believes that: “This is a pioneering area of work which is already beginning to show its value. In addition to saving money, it provides us with greater efficiency and resilience. New...approaches to technology have been implemented which will speed up processes, allowing the forces to bring offenders to justice more quickly...” Time will tell as to the long-term efficiency and cost-saving 1: http://bit.ly/LBN6yN
benefits of this unit, but it is a sign that police services are moving on from the closure of the Forensic Science Service. Some in the field have expressed their reservations about the in-sourcing of forensic services – including Professor James Robertson at the University of Canberra, who referred to it in his guest lecture at the CFS (see the April CFS Bulletin2). Writing for the Royal Society of Chemistry’s membership magazine RSC News in April, Professor Jim Fraser (Director of the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Forensic Science) argues that following the closure of the FSS, England and Wales face an “uncertain and unstable future…with extensive ‘in-sourcing’ of forensic work by the police.” He worries in particular that police services “…are historically resistant to independent accreditation of forensic science” and that lack of a national framework of independent accreditation for forensic services may lead to different levels of efficiency and accuracy in different areas, which has implications for criminal justice across England and
FBI and US Department of Justice will review over 10,000 criminal cases In July, the FBI announced3 a review of thousands of criminal cases dating back to 1985, following concerns over the validity of the forensic evidence used. In many cases guilty verdicts were reached based on forensic hair and fibre analysis and other methods, which are no longer deemed admissable, may have been used to convict suspects. Numerous investigations have already taken place into individual cases, resulting in some verdicts being overturned. In a 2009 report the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called for a national body to set standards for forensic science so that all analysis would be consistent. The actions of the FBI and the US government confirm the desire for an official review of forensic science standards in the US. Forensic scientists in other countries will no doubt be watching these developments with interest, and perhaps wondering if their own work would stand up to such scrutiny. There is concern that the recent fragmentation of forensic science services in the UK may only exacerbate any existing problems with validation of methods. The planned closure of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the proposed introduction of a national College of Policing4 to “share best practice among officers, develop professionalism and set standards for specialist skills training such as investigation, intelligence and firearms” is imminent, and it may be that standards in forensic science will form part of the College’s remit.
3: http://wapo.st/NoeZNQ 4: http://bit.ly/M2Itiq
Exploring future collaborations The CFS is exploring opportunities for research collaboration and consultancy with practitioners, professional organisations and other academic institutions. Earlier in the year the Centre was awarded some funding by UCL to work with different groups investigating the potential for delivering short courses, lectures, seminars and other forms of continuing professional development (CPD) in the future. Colin Moorhouse joined the CFS in March 2012 to work on this project with Dr Ruth Morgan and the CFS steering group.
In August 2011 Colin retired from the Metropolitan Police Service, where he worked initially as a detective and then over the last 16 years on community policing and youth crime prevention. He has worked on projects with a range of partners including Community Safety Teams and Children’s Services, Office for Mayor of London, Department for Education, National Strategies, Council of Europe and European Commission. Over the next few months we hope to develop and trial some initial short courses, and to investigate how we can work with police and forensic science providers on new research. As part of this initial process we hosted two workshops at UCL in early September, at which police, forensic scientists and other academics took part in discussions about the future of forensic science provision, training and development,
and research. In November we will be attending the R&D conference in Warwick led by the Forensic Regulator, which will hopefully be a fruitful discussion of forensic science research and development at the national level.
6th International Crime Science Conference The 6th annual International Crime Science Conference took place on 4th July at the British Library. The theme was “Resilient Infrastructure and Building Security” and the CFS ran a session on the detection and investigation of infrastructure attacks. James French, one of our PhD students, gave a talk on his research into the secondary transfer of gun-shot residue and this was received with interest by delegates from the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police and generated interesting discussion. Georgia McCulloch - who is starting her PhD with us in September on forensic soil analysis - attended the session and writes:
Bio-Protect: detecting airborne pathogens As part of this year’s session on the detection and investigation of infrastructure attacks, Vincent Chauvet presented details of the FP7 project he is currently co-ordinating: BIOPROTECT1. The ongoing project aims to develop a system capable of detecting airborne pathogens in order to alert security personnel of an impending biological threat. The malicious or accidental release of harmful airborne bacteria, spores or viruses has the potential to cause substantial numbers of casualties, as was the case in the US when five people died and seventeen were infected in 2001 as a result of anthrax spores sent through the post. 1: http://bit.ly/NQEaGG
The device under development by BIO-PROTECT will combine and improve upon existing technologies in order to meet the needs of end-users by delivering a small, automated system with low maintenance costs suitable for continuous monitoring of public spaces, medical facilities and food processing plants. The device will monitor the background air conditions and detect any potential threats by laser induced fluorescence. Suspicious particulates are then concentrated and decomposed by pyrolysis, the resulting fragments separated by gas-chromatography and their mass determined by ion mobility spectrometry. The resulting characteristic chromatograms and mass spectra will then be processed automatically and compared against library data for known pathogens. This ambitious project requires significant effort to miniaturise and integrate existing instrumentation, to reduce analysis times and running costs and to develop the pattern analysis software and reference data required to ensure accuracy. Although still in the development stages, the system has been demonstrated as having sufficient specificity to successfully discriminate between the three types of bacteria tested to date. Once the remaining challenges are tackled, the BIO-PROTECT device will be able to act as an early warning system to allow timely evacuation or decontamination of areas experiencing elevated concentrations of biological agents, thus reducing the impact of bio-terrorist attacks or accidental releases. Georgia McCulloch
Bringing forensic science into schools As part of the Centre’s outreach activities, members of the CFS have been involved in various events this year focusing on encouraging school students to take up STEM subjects. Nadia Abdul-Karim is one of our PhD students and has been involved with the STEM Ambassadors Programme1 since her undergraduate degree – she now works with UCL Chemistry Department on outreach events: “In June I went to Our Lady Convent School in Hackney, to demonstrate spectroscopic techniques to their AS level students. It was for a couple of hours and the students were tasked with identifying unknown liquids and powders from data generated through conducting Infrared and Mass Spectroscopy. The scope of the workshop was to supplement what the students learn through the curriculum and it was also an opportunity for them to ask questions about further education options and what doing a degree is really like.” In July The Big Bang Fair London took place at Westminster Kingsway College. This is an event for school students to attend to find out more about STEM disciplines and compete for a place at the National Big Bang Fair in March 2013. I took part in the event as a STEM Ambassador, judging student projects alongside another Ambassador (a field engineer at CrossRail). We saw three projects: an investigation into the effectiveness of coastal defences against tsunamis; a project designed to find alternative and sustainable ways of growing food in Kenya; and a ‘backyard science’ project which entailed making water rocket launchers out of scrap materials. The enthusiasm and hard work of the students involved was clear to see and two of the projects went on to win places at the national event 1: http://bit.ly/cym71U
taking place next year. In July I also gave a talk on forensic evidence at Abbotsfield School for Boys in Hillingdon, London. This was as part of a whole day of forensic science workshops organised by the school, in which students collected evidence from a mock crime scene.
The younger boys (aged 12-14) enjoyed testing for fingerprints and analysing ‘blood’ and ‘drugs’ from the scene, and one was shocked to discover that all the suspects were female because “Girls don’t do drugs Miss!” The older boys (aged 14-16) were more aware of the need to keep evidence from being contaminated, but they enjoyed looking at photos of blood spatter as much as their younger counterparts did(!), and they made some good investigations into how the bloodstain patterns may have been caused. Kirstie Hampson
Stay in touch
Recent events 6th European Academy of Forensic Science Conference 20th - 24th August 2012 Netherlands Forensic Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands
The Evidence Conference is a comprehensive 2-day event covering evidence collection, handling, analysis, and chain of custody. It is an inaugural event being run by Forensic Magazine, DFI News and Vicon Business Media.
The title of the EAFS2012 conference was “Towards Forensic Science 2.0”. Members of the CFS attended and presented papers including Dr Dave Lagnado, Professor David Balding, Dr Itiel Dror, Dr Ruth Morgan, and several of our PhD students.
The Forensic Regulator Mr Andrew Rennison has called for this conference to explore opportunities for collaborative research and development. Participants will come from forensic science, law enforcement, the judiciary, training and education, and research and development and the discussions held at the event will shape the future of forensic science R&D in the UK and further afield.
Upcoming events Science and Justice: The Criminal Court Saturday 22nd September 2012 Robens Suite, Guy’s Hospital, London Bridge, London This event will be run by The British Academy of Forensic Sciences: a multidisciplinary organisation, including lawyers, forensic scientists, doctors and psychologists. It is chaired by the Institute of Psychiatry’s Professor Mike Kopelman. http://bit.ly/N1maZT
The Evidence Conference October 20th-21st 2012 Washington DC, USA
Forensic Horizons: Promoting Awareness of Research & Development Internationally Friday 9th November 2012 University of Warwick Conference Centre, Coventry
To keep up-to-date with news from the CFS, events we are running and external news in the forensic science field, why not visit our website and follow our newsfeed on Twitter? w: www.ucl.ac.uk/forensic-sciences @UCLForensicSci e: email@example.com provide a means for the academic community to describe the nature and characteristics of programmes in a specific subject or subject area. They represent general expectations about standards for the award of qualifications at a given level in terms of the attributes and capabilities that those possessing qualifications should have demonstrated. This subject benchmark statement refers to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forensic science. http://bit.ly/NdOHyL
For more news and information about events, see our website and Twitter feed.
News The draft consultation has now been published for the QAA new subject benchmark statement for forensic science. Responses must be submitted by 28th September 2012. Subject benchmark statements
cfs bulletin JULY 2012 Editor: Kirstie Hampson Contributors: Georgia McCulloch Next issue December 2012