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News Round-Up Week Ending 7.8.15

(Posted on 07/08/15)


Janner to Face Charges:

Magistrate Howard Riddle has rejected arguments that Lord Janner is unfit to attend court because of severe dementia and ordered him to appear to face sexual abuse charges.

Corruption Inquiry over Heath Abuse Claims

A police corruption inquiry is examining claims that the prosecution of a brothel keeper was halted when she threatened to expose former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath as a child abuser.

Six police forces nationwide are now carrying out investigations linked to child sex claims against Heath.

Call for Blind Forensic Testing

Forensic scientists attending the first International Symposium on Forensic Error Management in Arlington, Virginia last month, identified a key problem: people who evaluate evidence from crime scenes have access to information about a case that could bias their analysis.

Itiel Dror, cognitive neuroscientist at University College London and a long-time critic of the lack of blinding procedures in forensic science, described how cognitive bias might contribute to forensic errors, and recommended that examiners be shielded from all information not relevant to a given stage of analysis. For example, a fingerprint examiner must mark up the important features of a crime scene print before viewing a suspect’s print, and can’t change key fetaures of that markup after seeing the second print. [Reported in]

The Life Forensic

Another eminent forensic science spoke of her concerns over reliability of forensics on BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific [link below].

Forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid talked about working with judiciary to improve their understanding of forensics science and also about investigating fires and analysing legal highs.

Her team were involved in studying the infamous Philpott case in Derby when six children tragically died in a fire set by their parents, Mick and Mairead. They devised experiments to find out why, despite having smoke alarms fitted inside the house, none of the children woke up.

Chemistry has also been pushed to the limits to identify 'legal highs', or Novel Psychoactive Substances. Around 350 new drugs are released on to the market every month, with Europe a hotspot for buyers.

Nic Daeid, Professor at Dundee University, said serious problems face the world of forensic science. The field, she says, is in crisis. With rock-bottom research budgets, and the list of miscarriages of justice growing, how can we fix forensic science?

listen to the programme: