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p. 127Afterwordlocked

  • Jim Fraser

Abstract

… the umbrella term ‘forensic science’ embraces a set of intensely practical disciplines to which the paradigm of pure scientific enquiry cannot readily be applied.

Paul Roberts and Christine Willmore, The Role of Forensic Science Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

I have tried to provide the reader with some understanding of forensic science, its value, limitations, and potential. As Roberts and Willmore suggest above, forensic science does not conform readily to our general expectations or requirements of science. It is messy, conceptually and practically; it deals with body fluids and body parts, explosions, burned-out buildings, and shattered fragments from a myriad of sources, which it attempts to piece together in some meaningful way within the constraints of the legal framework in which it is applied. The boundaries of forensic science are unclear, or at least contested, its evidence base is weak in some areas and open to challenge. It is in turn lauded and condemned by the press, politicians, and the public as befits their mood, and it can be prone to exploitation by bogus experts....

… the umbrella term ‘forensic science’ embraces a set of intensely practical disciplines to which the paradigm of pure scientific enquiry cannot readily be applied.

Paul Roberts and Christine Willmore, The Role of Forensic Science Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

I have tried to provide the reader with some understanding of forensic science, its value, limitations, and potential. As Roberts and Willmore suggest above, forensic science does not conform readily to our general expectations or requirements of science. It is messy, conceptually and practically; it deals with body fluids and body parts, explosions, burned-out buildings, and shattered fragments from a myriad of sources, which it attempts to piece together in some meaningful way within the constraints of the legal framework in which it is applied. The boundaries of forensic science are unclear, or at least contested, its evidence base is weak in some areas and open to challenge. It is in turn lauded and condemned by the press, politicians, and the public as befits their mood, and it can be prone to exploitation by bogus experts.

Forensic science makes a unique contribution to criminal justice, despite these infirmities, providing answers not achievable by any other means and to a standard unmatched by any other type of p. 128evidence. Its contribution remains attenuated because it is indirectly applied by practitioners (police and lawyers) who have limited understanding of its potential, and by scientists who fail to grasp the legal or investigative significance of information in their possession. Recognition of this interdependence of science, law, and policing, of the importance of shared knowledge and improved communication, is the key to a more effective contribution by forensic science to criminal justice.