This course explores how the police use science in criminal investigations and how it interacts with the criminal justice system.
Over the past two decades the criminal justice system has been dramatically affected by technological advances in scientific contributions to the law. The most influential developments have been in the area of DNA profiling, and its forensic applications for both identifying perpetrators and exonerating the innocent. Although there have been some extraordinary victories for the forensic science community in recent years, there has also more recently been scepticism about the infallibility of some forensic science practices, and the interpretation of physical evidence in the courtroom.
This course begins by introducing students to the historical context of forensic science and how science is used by the police during criminal investigations. We will then explore some of the implications that these forensic techniques have on the criminal justice system, such as controversies surrounding biometric databases, the portrayal of forensic science in popular media (e.g. the CSI Effect), and how forensic science is used in the courtroom. Finally, we will consider what the future of forensic science looks like and where the discipline may be heading in the years to come.
No prior qualifications in forensic science or other disciplines are required. Students should have an interest in how science assists police investigations, and how forensic science impacts on the criminal justice system.