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Forensic science as 'risky business': identifying key risk factors in the forensic process from crime scene to court

Citation

Julian, R and Kelty, SF, Forensic science as 'risky business': identifying key risk factors in the forensic process from crime scene to court, Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, 1, (4) pp. 195-206. ISSN 2056-3841 (2015) [Refereed Article]


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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

DOI: doi:10.1108/JCRPP-09-2015-0044

Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss key risk factors in the use of forensic science in the criminal justice system by adopting a holistic and systemic approach that examines the collection and use of forensic evidence from crime scene to court. Design/methodology/approach The research on which the paper is based was a mixed-method five-year study of the effectiveness of forensic science in the criminal justice system in Australia using qualitative and quantitative methods. The paper draws on the in-depth analysis of qualitative data from 11 case studies of investigations of serious crime to identify key risk factors in the use of forensic science from crime scene to court. Findings Six key risk factors in the forensic process from crime scene to court are identified: low level of forensic awareness among first responders; crime scene examiners (CSEs) as technicians rather than professionals; inefficient and/or ineffective laboratory processes; limited forensic literacy among key actors in the criminal justice system; poor communication between key actors in the criminal justice system; and, financial resources not directed at the front end of the forensic process. Overall the findings demonstrate that forensic science is not well embedded in the criminal justice system. Practical implications The paper suggests that the risks inherent in the current practice of forensic science in the criminal justice system can be reduced dramatically through: forensic awareness training among first responders; the professionalisation of CSEs; continued improvements in efficiency and effectiveness at the laboratory with a focus on timeliness and quality; greater forensic literacy among actors in the criminal justice system; appropriate avenues of communication between agencies, practitioners and policymakers in the criminal justice system; and increased allocation of resources to the front end of the forensic process. Originality/value By adopting a holistic, systemic approach to the analysis of forensic science in the criminal justice system, and identifying inherent risks in the system, this paper contributes to the emerging body of research on the social processes that impact on the effectiveness of forensic science.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Criminal justice system, Crime scene, Criminal investigation, Forensic evidence, Forensic science, Prosecution
Research Division:Studies in Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Correctional Theory, Offender Treatment and Rehabilitation
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the Law
Objective Field:Criminal Justice
Author:Julian, R (Associate Professor Roberta Julian)
Author:Kelty, SF (Dr Sally Kelty)
ID Code:107217
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-03-08
Last Modified:2016-11-09
Downloads:7 View Download Statistics

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