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

Forensic science as “risky business”: identifying key risk factors in the forensic process from... 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. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice Emerald Publishing

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

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
2056-3841
DOI
10.1108/JCRPP-09-2015-0044
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

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.

Journal

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and PracticeEmerald Publishing

Published: Dec 7, 2015

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