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Decoding Forensics for Legal Professionals

Delve into forensic science and examine its limitations to better understand how to use forensics in criminal trials.

724 enrolled on this course

Explore commonly relied on disciplines in forensics

Today, forensic evidence is integral to criminal investigations and trials. Therefore, it is important for legal professionals to have an understanding of the scientific foundations and limitations of different types of forensic evidence, in order to engage more meaningfully with such evidence.

On this six-week course, you’ll explore the scientific principles underlying forensic pathology, medical examination in sexual offence cases, bite mark analysis, and forensic DNA profiling. Using mock case scenarios, this insightful online course will help you develop the skills you can immediately apply in your career as a legal professional.

You’ll explore the law on expert evidence and the procedures that courts follow in examining such evidence. With this knowledge, you’ll understand the limitations with the current forms of legal inquiries and how they can be improved.

Lastly, you’ll scrutinise the law of expert evidence and forensic science landscape in India.

Develop your scientific inquiry skills alongside experts

Through this course, you will develop a keen sense of scientific inquiry and aptitude and learn how to apply these scientific principles and evidentiary standards to forensic disciplines beyond the course.

The videos, articles and quizzes have been curated on the basis of the extensive research and criminal defence work conducted by Project 39A, a criminal justice initiative based out of National Law University, Delhi. This course will help you develop essential skills which you can use in your career as a legal professional.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds Project 39A, National Law University, Delhi and Eleos Justice at Monash University present to you this course - Decoding Forensics for Legal Professionals. In the six week course, using interactive learning tools, we will cover the scientific principles underlying forensic pathology, medical examination in cases of sexual offences, bite mark evidence and forensic DNA profiling. We will also explore the law on expert evidence and the legal standards for the examination of forensic evidence. In creating this online course, we have brought together renowned scientific and legal experts from India and Australia. Through video lectures, articles, quizzes and mock scenarios, you will understand the ‘science behind forensic science’ and how it interacts with the law. Some of the important aspects covered in

Skip to 1 minute and 7 seconds this course are: What is the role of expert evidence in a criminal trial? Expert evidence is an exception to the rule against opinion evidence because it is believed that the court can be guided by the special skill or knowledge of the expert to arrive at its decision. How should law examine the admissibility of forensic evidence? In a case involving scientific evidence, evidentiary reliability will be based on scientific validity. How should experts submit their opinions before the court? The law mandates a reasoned opinion. So every word uttered in the final opinion should have a scientific basis. What are the challenges that may arise in the examination of forensic evidence?

Skip to 1 minute and 52 seconds We have seen many times that crime scenes are not properly protected and there is lots of public interference, public needs to be educated about it. Through Project 39A’s research in this area, we have observed that laboratories face various administrative challenges and continue to deal with high number of vacancies and poor infrastructure. How should legal and forensic professionals approach the examination of forensic evidence? If experts are not used to being challenged in this way? Then you have to start doing it and you have to start getting them used to being challenged. Not only is this important for your case, but it will also promote the use of scientifically reliable techniques in the legal system.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds It is essential to understand these issues for a meaningful examination of forensic evidence. So join this course to start exploring these issues through a scientific lens.

What topics will you cover?

This course delves into the scientific foundations and limitations of forensic disciplines which are commonly seen in criminal cases. These disciplines are - forensic pathology, medical examination in sexual offence cases, bite mark analysis and forensic DNA profiling. We also examine the legal standards in place to scrutinise such forensic evidence.

In the first week, we cover the module on forensic pathology and post mortem examinations. We examine the process for conducting post mortem examinations and the issues regarding the determination of the time and cause of death.

In the second week, the module on medical examination in sexual offence cases debunks the myths about the medical examination of victims and accused in such cases. Thereafter, we explore the manner in which medical officers should record their opinions and how it should be examined by legal professionals. In the third week, the module on bite mark analysis covers an introduction to forensic odontology and the assumptions underlying bite mark comparison. We also discuss the manner in which legal professionals should scrutinise bite mark evidence in their casework.

In the fourth and fifth week, the module on forensic DNA profiling delves into the basics of crime scene management, body fluid examination and forensic DNA profiling. We also explain the steps involved in forensic DNA profiling, and discuss issues relating to interpretation of DNA results, DNA mixtures and transfer of DNA. In the final week, the module on standards for examination of expert evidence introduces the law on expert evidence and explores the role of courts in examining such evidence. This module also covers the law of expert evidence and forensic science landscape in India.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the fundamental theory behind forensic pathology, medical examination in cases of sexual assault, bitemark comparison and forensic DNA profiling.
  • Reflect on the scientific limitations of the forensic disciplines taught in the course.
  • Evaluate the role of the Court in examining forensic evidence during a criminal trial.
  • Discuss the reliability of the evidence found in the mock case scenarios based on the scientific principles learnt as part of the course.
  • Apply the principles of scientific inquiry and evidentiary standards to forensic disciplines beyond this course.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for judges, lawyers, forensic scientists, and students of law and forensic science.

It will be particularly useful if you are interested in learning the science behind different forensic disciplines and the legal standards which apply in examining forensic evidence.

Who will you learn with?

Shreya heads the work on forensics and death penalty litigation at Project 39A, National Law University, Delhi. She completed her Masters in Law from New York University School of Law.

Devina is a forensic biologist working with the forensics team at Project 39A, National Law University, Delhi. She completed her M.Sc. in Forensic Science from King's College London.

Devina is a lawyer involved in forensics work at Project 39A, National Law University, Delhi. She has clerked at the Indian Supreme Court and completed Masters in Law from University of Cambridge.

Who developed the course?

Project 39A

Project 39A is a criminal justice initiative based out of National Law University, Delhi. Its areas of research include forensics, mental health, death penalty, legal aid, and torture. Project 39A engages with these issues within the criminal justice system through rigorous empirical research and legal intervention. Specifically, their work on forensics aims to promote the use of scientifically valid and reliable forensic evidence within the criminal justice system.

  • Established

    2008
  • Location

    Delhi, India

Monash University I ELEOS Justice

Eleos Justice is a collaboration between the Capital Punishment Justice Project and Faculty of Law at Monash University. Created with the aim to restrict and abolish the death penalty in the Asian region, it is involved in vital advocacy, evidence based research and teaching.

Eleos Justice provided support and resources to assist partners with developing this course.

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