Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

Year: 2012

Experimenting at the interface of art and science

M. Wienroth (2012), The Newsletter of the ESRC Genomics Network, 15, pp. 22-23.

Abstract

The decoding of the human genome has contributed to an awareness of the need for interaction between scientific and non-scientific perspectives. Science and art experience and interpret the world in quite different ways. Their collaboration can open up new perspectives between existing knowledge and its stakeholders, promoting greater engagement with, and influencing the use of, science in society.

Tags: , Matthias Wienroth

Should everybody provide DNA to law enforcement authorities?

V. Toom “Moet iedereen dan maar zijn DNA afstaan aan justitie?” NRC Handelsblad, Rotterdam. Opinion: 20 Nov. 2012.

Tags: , Victor Toom

Met super-DNA-databank meer kan op dwalingen

V. Toom. De Volkskrant, Amsterdam. Opinion: 24 Nov. 2012

Tags: , Victor Toom

Bodies of science and law: forensic DNA profiling, biological bodies and biopower

V. Toom. Journal of Law & Society, 39, pp. 150-166. (2012)

Abstract

How is jurisdiction transferred from an individual’s biological body to agents of power such as the police, public prosecutors, and the judiciary, and what happens to these biological bodies when transformed from private into public objects? These questions are examined by analysing bodies situated at the intersection of science and law. More specifically, the transformation of ‘private bodies’ into ‘public bodies’ is analysed by going into the details of forensic DNA profiling in the Dutch jurisdiction. It will be argued that various ‘forensic genetic practices’ enact different forensic genetic bodies’. These enacted forensic genetic bodies are connected with various infringements of civil rights, which become articulated in exploring these forensic genetic bodies’‘normative registers’.

Tags: , Victor Toom

Forensic DNA databases in England and the Netherlands: governance, structure and performance compared

V. Toom. New Genetics and Society, 31, pp. 311-322. (2012).

Abstract

How do liberal democracies govern forensic DNA databasing? That is the question being asked in this contribution by focussing on the rules for inclusion of DNA databases in England & Wales and the Netherlands. The two different modes of governance shall be evaluated by taking into account models and ideas in each society regarding the two imperatives of ‘crime control’ and ‘due process’. Another question tentatively examined in this contribution is how these modes of governance impact the performance of national DNA databases. The analysis provided in this article argues that, when compared with the English and Welsh mode of governance, the Dutch mode of governance is more beneficial for the protection of individual rights and the effective use of resources.

Tags: , Victor Toom

Performing the Union: The Prüm Decision and the European dream

B. Prainsack & V. Toom. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, in press. (2012).

Abstract

In 2005, seven European countries signed the so-called Prüm Treaty to increase transnational collaboration in combating international crime, terrorism and illegal immigration. Three years later, the Treaty was adopted into EU law. EU member countries were now obliged to have systems in place to allow authorities of other member states access to nationally held data on DNA, fingerprints, and vehicles by August 2011. In this paper, we discuss the conditions of possibility for the Prüm network to emerge, and argue that rather than a linear ascent towards technological and political convergence and harmonisation, the (hi)story of Prüm is heterogeneous and halting. This is reflected also in the early stages of implementing the Prüm Decision which has proven to be more challenging than it was hoped by the drivers of the Prüm process. In this sense, the Prüm network sits uncomfortably with success stories of forensic science (many of which served the goal of justifying the expansion of technological and surveillance systems). Instead of telling a story of heroic science, the story of Prüm articulates the European dream: one in which goods, services, and people live and travel freely and securely.

Tags: , Victor Toom

Efficiency and the Cost-Effective Delivery of Forensic Science Services: Insourcing, Outsourcing, and Privatization

C.N. Maguire, M.M. Houck, R.Williams & P.J. Speaker. Forensic Science Policy & Management, 3(2), pp. 62-69. (2012).

Abstract

Budgets for forensic science laboratories have always been meager relative to the caseload demands on their services, but the pressure to do more with less has been growing at a more rapid pace recently for laboratories around the world. Much of this pressure is related to the stress on government budgets from global recession. During any fiscal crisis, governments look to areas in which public budgets can cut costs to move toward greater fiscal responsibility; in the most recent global recession those cuts, some draconian, have affected forensic science laboratories with some notable reductions in force. Rather than passively await the decisions of officials from outside the laboratory environment, laboratories may have a greater hand in their destiny through preemptive action before unwanted changes are thrust upon them. To do so it is essential that laboratory directors have a firm grasp on foundational economic realities. With that knowledge, directors can begin to use those realities to increase cost-effectiveness while maintaining efficiency. In many situations the optimal response may be to make cross-jurisdictional agreements to insource or outsource casework. In other situations the response may lead to reorganizing existing or opening new facilities to spread a heavy caseload among multiple laboratories for a more effective division of services. In some circumstances a private sector solution may be optimal as excess caseloads are outsourced to private laboratories or entire investigative areas diverted to the for-profit market.

Tags: , Robin Williams

Crime Scene Examiners and Volume Crime Investigations: An Empirical Study of Perception and Practice

A. Ludwig, J. Fraser & R. Williams. Forensic Science Policy & Management, 3(2), pp. 53-61. (2012).

Abstract

Most police forces in the UK employ specially trained crime scene examiners (CSEs) to provide forensic science support for the investigation of crime. Previous research (Bradbury & Feist 2005; Williams 2004) has shown wide variations in the management, deployment, and performance of this staff group. There is also evidence that informal elements of professional and organizational culture, in particular the role characterizations of crime scene examiners, also have a bearing on their effective use in the investigation of high-volume property crime. These issues are explored as part of a more extensive study of forensic science provision in the two largest police forces in Scotland and by the four main Scottish Police Services Authority Forensic Services (SPSA FS) units. A range of staff in these organizations described their understandings of the role of crime scene examiners—as evidence collectors, forensic investigators, specialist advisers, or any combination of these. While two thirds (62%) of respondents recognized the complexity and scope of the role of CSEs, including its cognitive elements, a substantial minority (38%) categorized the role as having a single element—collecting evidence—and therefore perceived it as limited to largely mechanical in character. The reasons for and consequences of this perception are considered, and the article concludes with a challenge to reconsider this limited view of what crime scene examiners can contribute to volume crime investigations.

Tags: , Robin Williams

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