• Question: Evaluate the reasons why Forensic Scientists may be under pressure during a murder/collision inquiry.

    Asked by bones to Jamie, Jodie, Kat, Mark, Niamh on 23 Mar 2011 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Niamh Nic Daeid

      Niamh Nic Daeid answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      HI Bones

      Often you may be under pressures of time as an inquiry may move at quite a rapid pace depending on the type of crime. In some cases (like large terrorist cases or similar) there may be lots of exhibits and materials that need to be examined and all of that has to be done thoroughly so can be time consuming.

    • Photo: Jamie Pringle

      Jamie Pringle answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      Hello bones,

      I cant talk about my colleagues, but when Im involved in cases the main pressure is time! i.e. where is it buried? And certain types of euiqpment i use (eg resistivity) have to be downloaded, and processed first before we can give some indications if something has been buried or not. GPR on the other hand can be used to view data in real time to see what is buried there. It isnt that easy though – sometimes you need to do a lot more data processing first to work out where things might be, which all takes time.

    • Photo: Mark Hill

      Mark Hill answered on 22 Mar 2011:

      Hi Bones,
      Another essay question.

      A fundamental aspect of a forensic scientist, or collision investigator is in the name – Forensic (science) means, by translation, science for the court, the entire court.

      This is important and an aspect that perhaps I find I have to be particularly robust about. I am a serving uniform police officer, with a full warrant of powers, such that I can be equally investigating a fatal collision, as arresting a drink driver, or policing a party political conference, riding a motorcycle.

      However, I am a forensic collision investigator, not for the prosecution, even though I sit behind the prosecuting counsel in court, to the right of the counsel seating area. I am equally there for the Defence, the Judge and the jury. My evidence can only be, and should be, factual, balanced and, if opinion is given, such that experts are allowed to give, even and honest, based on my skills and qualifications.

      If I am doing my job correctly and well, then the Defence appointed collision expert should agree with me, or agree most of what I give, as ‘agreed points in common’. After all, he or she will be applying the same laws pf physics, conventions of maths and rules of forensic evidence that I have done.

      This meets with a report by the Lord Woolf, in 1998, who wanted to speed up court proceedings. He called for a ‘Joint Expert Witness Protocol’, from which, if the evidence of both experts is agreed, only one expert (it has always been me in my cases) will give the evidence.

      I must not be subjective, nor give wild opinion that I cannot back up with substance, or opinion beyond my field of expertise.

      On account of my court role, to save people seeing me as the police/Crown expert, I wear a suit and not uniform. Essentially, we are free of obligation to either side, hence, it is quite common at coffee breaks or lunch time during a hearing, for the two experts and counsel to lunch together. Whoever’s paying!

      With those experts who find themselves less frequently in court, or for whom the rigorous experience of many years at court is not available, I can understand how the pressures may be on them to give evidence for either the Crown, or the Defence.

      Even though I may appear for the Crown, the evidence that I give may benefit the Defence more. Equally, I may be called by the Defence. It is all interesting stuff and keeps me on my toes. I have studied advocacy skills, in order to obtain a better insight into the tools of their trade, which has helped me greatly.

      Court appearance is really a game of mental chess – looking a few moves ahead. Court can be a fantastic experience, providing you are a robust character and are not easily ruffled.

      This is a good question on a subject that has not been touched upon and which is very relevant to all of our roles in this ‘zone’.


    • Photo: Katherine Davies

      Katherine Davies answered on 23 Mar 2011:


      I have not yet been involved in an investigation, so cant say from experience, but i would imagine being an expert witness, defending your analysis must be very tough. Surviving the cross examination must take it out of the best people in the field, as you are usually ‘against’ a colleague acting as the expert on the other side. Its something I would like to do, but when I am more experienced!