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Academic provides expertise on forensic science to the House of Lords

19 October 2018 @TeesUniNews

 

A Teesside University academic has visited Westminster to assist with a major inquiry into forensic science in the UK.

Professor Tim Thompson, Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching)
Professor Tim Thompson, Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching)

Professor Tim Thompson, Professor of Applied Biological Anthropology and Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) in the School of Science, Engineering & Design, was invited to London to give evidence at the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry.

Teesside University is a founding father of forensic science and was the first University in the country to offer forensic and crime scene courses in the early 1990s. A leading anthropologist, Professor Thompson is actively involved in undertaking and fostering research and his work has been widely published in over 50 journals and books. He is also a national teaching fellow and has contributed to a number of national and international documentaries as an expert in the field.

In recent years, concerns have been raised about the state of forensic science in the UK, particularly since the dissolution of the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in 2012. The FSS was a government organisation in the UK which provided forensic science services to the police force and government agencies. Since the FSS was closed, forensic work has been undertaken by the private sector.

In response, the inquiry by the House of Lords will look at the contribution forensic science makes to the delivery of justice in the UK and its strengths and weaknesses in doing so. It will also explore the understanding and use of forensic evidence in the criminal justice system and how this evidence can be used effectively and robustly throughout the process.

The meeting, chaired by Lord Patel, was the first step of the inquiry, which is expected to last several months. Professor Thompson gave evidence alongside Dr Karl Harrison, Lecturer in Forensic Archaeology, and Dr Sarah Morris, Lecturer in Forensic Computing, both of Cranfield University.

Practitioners in the sector feel positive that we are able to have this discussion, and it is great that Teesside University was able to be represented there.

Professor Tim Thompson, Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching)

Issues raised were wide-ranging and included the strengths and weaknesses of the sector, the state of research and teaching in the area, public trust in forensic science, and digital forensics.

Professor Thompson said: 'It is always a challenge when a public service is marketised. The FSS wasn’t working as well as it could have so it wasn’t a complete surprise that it closed, but the speed at which it happened came as a shock.

'The forensic science sector has recovered from the closure of the FSS, but we are now trying to figure out how to make it work within budgetary constraints.

'It is a very good thing that the inquiry is taking place. Practitioners in the sector feel positive that we are able to have this discussion, and it is great that Teesside University was able to be represented there.'

Lord Patel commented: 'Recent reports have warned that police are increasingly relying on unregulated experts to examine samples from suspects and crime scenes. Given the important role forensic science can play in convicting or exonerating defendants, the Committee wants to make sure that forensic evidence is produced to a consistent scientific standard.

'We also want to examine the way in which forensic evidence is understood throughout criminal justice process, and whether the Government has considered the need to plan for the predicted increase in the amount of digital forensic evidence.'


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