Eighth-Annual Student-Led Conference

Last Wednesday afternoon, The Forensic and Crime Science Society (FACS) held the eighth-annual, student-led conference in the Science Centre. 

Students from the FACS Society, including President Aimee Girdham (second from left), with Guest Speaks Deneen L Hernandez (centre) and Dr Maria MacLennan (second form right).

Aimee Girdham, the President of the FACS Society and a level 6 Forensic Investigation student, explains that the “society is run alongside the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science [department within the School of Law, Policing and Forensics].

“We organise events throughout the year including Escape Rooms and the end of year ball, but most importantly we organise the annual Student-Led Conference. We invite external guest speakers to present alongside current Level 6 students to present their project work. It’s a great afternoon to network with a wide range of people from a variety of forensic disciplines.”


Dr Rachel Bolton-King (centre) with Guest Speakers Deneen L Hernandez (left) and Dr Maria MacLennan (right)

You can watch Associate Professor, Dr Rachel Bolton-King talk about the event on the School of Law, Policing and Forensics Facebook page here.

The event opened at 1pm, where level six undergraduate students, Olivia Hodgetts, Mauricio Chase, Tina Kaur and Anthony Smart, presented their project research. 

Olivia Hodgetts presenting her research on Blood Pattern Analysis and the effects of alcohol on blood. 


Tina Kaur has researched the impact of a speculum and specimen capture device in semen recovery rates during sexual offence examinations


Anthony Smart presented on the impact of heating bone following a knife injury to determine whether you can determine temperature of heating or knife type

“Level 6 students, Olivia Hodgetts, Mauricio Chase, Tina Kaur and Anthony Smart presented their research from their Independent Project which I hope was inspiring to the Level 4 students in getting them to think about the different Forensics areas and the process that’s involved in completing the project for them to make their own decision next year.”

Mark Broadhead and Robin Parsons, two PhD Researchers, also presented their research on Firearms and Ballistics and DNA AND Fingerprint Recovery.

Robin Parson, PhD Researcher (DNA Fingerprint and Recovery)


Mark Broadhead, PhD Researcher (Firearms and Ballistics)

The students were delighted to have four, external Guest Speakers accept their invitation to present on a range of topics about various forensic disciplines. 

Dr Anna Williams, Forensic Anthropologist at the University of Huddersfield


Deneen L Hernandez, Forensic Examiner in the FBI


Forensic Jewellery with Dr Maria MacLennan

Jonathan Allen, Forensic Presentation Officer at West Midlands Police

“It was an intellectual afternoon with great turn out from external guest speakers from a range of forensic disciplines, including a Forensic Examiner from the FBI, a Forensic Jeweller, Forensic Anthropologist who discussed her lead on establishing a human taphonomy facility in the U.K, and a Forensic Presentation Officer who uses 3D scanning to scan the crime scene and turn it into a 3D image to be used in the courtroom for the jury.”



Practical CSI Experience for Students from University College Leuven Limburg

Twenty-five students from University College Leuven Limburg visited us at Staffordshire University, Stoke Campus, for three days in March in order to take part in a Crime Scene Evidence Analysis short course. 


The students signed up to the short course after seeing a guest lecture by Associate Professor, Dr Claire Gwinnett at University College Leuven Limburg last March. The visit was organised so the students could get hands-on crime scene investigation (CSI) experience.

Day 1

The first day provided an overview of crime scene documentation, photography, packaging and evidence handling with Dr Claire Gwinnett and PhD Researcher Laura Wilkinson. A lot of examples were shown and discussions were had about the best way to preserve evidence. The day ended with a fingerprint powering session to brush up skills for their crime scene investigations. 

Day 2

CSI teams of five students were each given a case scenario, ranging from a missing persons investigation, potential kidnapping and assault and murder. They aspent four hours at the crime scene house investigating their case – some were focused on a bedroom scene, others in the kitchen and lounge and others investigating a vehicle outside.  

The teams had to work together to identify, document and retrieve evidence ready for future analysis. Later that day, teams created forensic strategies for the investigation and the analysis of the evidence, prioritising evidence so as to enable the ‘what, when, where, who, how and why’ questions to be answered. Our UCLL interns Bart Bogaerts and Koen Geurts, who are here at Staffs till June conducting research, helped out at the crime scene house with evidence packaging.

Day 3

Evidence analysis day meant the teams had to identify the analysis techniques and tests that they wanted to conduct on their evidence: including body fluids identification, presumptive testing of drugs, document analysis (using VSC), ink analysis (using Raman Spectroscopy), hair and glass analysis, chemical development of fingermarks and Electrostatic Detection Apparatus for ID of the presence of any indentations on paper evidence and DNA submissions.

Each team could only submit three items for DNA analysis, meaning that the evidential value of each item of evidence had to be scrutinised and an effective forensic strategy developed. 

Teams collated their findings and presented these via an ideas board to the rest of the course with the team delivering the most accurate and well thought-out interpretation of the case winning a prize

Staffs Students’ Superb Opportunity to Attend Lincoln’s Inn

Over 100 undergraduate students across the country were chosen by their respective institutions to attend Lincoln’s Inn last week.

Lincoln’s Inn is one of four Inns of Court providing students with training, careers advice and scholarships.

“I was delighted to be chosen by the Universities Academic Team to have dinner at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn” –  level 6 student, Nazeem Khan

Naseem Khan was one of the students invited to attend from Staffordshire University.

Nazeem Khan and Elizabeth Briand


“From the moment we arrived I was in awe, Lincoln’s Inn was like Hogwarts! We arrived outside a big wooden door. Standing on the other side were students from almost every university in the country waiting to greet us.”

Those in attendance included the University College of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

“Everyone was friendly, we each shared our individual experiences. Some of these students were certain that they wanted to pursue a career at the bar, others were simply there to enjoy the evening!

We were never made to feel small, there was a real sense of togetherness. I even made friends with a History & Politics student who has since offered to give me a tour of Oxford.”

The evening consisted of talks on the employed and self-employed bar. Followed by dinner in the Great Hall.

“The talks were informative, we really gained an insight into life at the bar and how Lincoln’s Inn will support us on our journey through training and various scholarships.”

“It was brilliant, really interesting talks and then every table was sat with a few barristers from London so we could properly talk to them about the Bar, it was really insightful” – level 6 student, Elizabeth Briand.

“Dining at the Inn was a great networking opportunity. At least one barrister was sat at every table, each within talking distance. Where else might one find themselves seated next to a QC Barrister (appointed by the Queen’s Counsel) or a former Judge of the Supreme Court!

I would like to thank Staffordshire University for the opportunity.”

Is Prison the New Pension Plan?

By Shannon-Annie Moore -Student

It has been reported that there has been a steady increase of elderly people in Japan committing crimes, as pensioner’s turn to crime with the aim of prosecution as a way of escaping loneliness and poverty.

The report suggests that Japanese pensioners are turning to crime with the hope of long stays in Japanese jails.

The BBC interviewed 69-year-old Toshio Takata who, explained that he had reached pension age and then ran out of money. As he was struggling, he turned to crime as he thought he could live for free in jail. His first crime was committed at 62 years old. He took a bicycle and walked all the way to the Police Station where he told the Police he had stolen the bike. In Japan petty theft is treated very seriously so they sentenced him to one-year in jail. After he was released, he threatened a woman with a knife. Toshio said he had no intention of harming anyone he just hoped they would contact the police so he would get arrested – which he did.

Obviously when in prison the prisoners get free accommodation. Their pension does not stop meaning it is easier for them to live once released. Once a law-abiding society, there is growing number of crimes being carried out in Japan by the over 65s. 21 years ago the age group accounted for 1/20 convictions. Today, the figure has grown to more than 1/5.

Traditionally, the older generation would be looked after by their children but with the economic opportunity, children are moving away leaving their parents to find work. The pensioners are torn between not wanting to burden their children, yet unable to live on the State pension.

The Japanese Government have expanded prison capacity, installing hand rails and special toilets and recruited extra female prison guards to support the number of elderly female criminals which is dramatically increasing. Pensioners are struggling across the world. Whilst crime is not the answer, neither is leaving these vulnerable people alone, without the ability to pay for rising living costs, fuel costs and food bills. Society has a responsibility to look after the older generation and crime should not be the answer. 

SULAC provides free legal advice to the most vulnerable in our society. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.


New Laws to Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

Arieta Batirerega- Student

Since 2010, the Government has prioritised domestic abuse issues. The draft domestic abuse bill, published on the 21st January 2019, is intended to support victims and their families. It comes as it is revealed domestic abuse issues cost the country £66 billion a year and approximately 2 million adults experienced domestic abuse in 2018.

To help tackle the crime, new legislation will:

  • introduce the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse. This will enable everyone, including victims themselves, to understand what constitutes abuse and will, hopefully, encourage more victims to come forward;
  • seek to appoint a domestic abuse commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues;
  • introduce new domestic abuse protection notices and orders to protect victims and to attempt to rehabilitate offenders;
  • prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts. As it stands, victims have had to come face-to-face with their ex-partners in some cases;
  • provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives and warrants some of the strongest measures at our disposal to deter offenders and protect victims.

By pursuing every option available, to better support victims and bring more offenders to justice, we are driving the change necessary to ensure families never have to endure the pain of domestic abuse in silence.”

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can help deal with family matters. Please call 01782 294800 to make an appointment.


Staffs Uni Wins ‘Best Collaboration between a University and Employer’ Award with Staffs Police

Friday evening at the National Undergraduate Employability Awards (NUE),in collaboration with Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire University won the award for ‘Best Collaboration between a University and Employer’ for the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership

Dr John Wheeler, The Associate Dean of Students for the School of Law, Policing and Forensics, said “this is a fantastic achievement and a great recognition of the innovative and excellent work that is undertaken between Staffordshire University and its partners.  Everyone who has played a part in the partnership should rightly be very proud of their achievements.”

The Forensic Parternship goes back to 2009 when John Beckwith, Head of Forensics at Staffordshire Police, and Andrew Jackson, then Head of Forensic and Crime Science at the University came up with the plan. The partnership was formally launched in 2016 and this year sees the third anniversary of this.

“Since then, many students, both in traditional and digital forensics have undertaken placements and project work, numerous research questions have been explored and answered, and a phenomenal relationship has developed between our two organisations. Many people have made significant and telling contributions to the Partnership over the years and have made it into the award winning success it is today.”

“I would like to express my personal thanks and gratitude to everyone who has been involved in the Partnership over the years, including colleagues at Staffordshire Police who have been incredibly innovative in their thinking and receptive to breaking down barriers in forensics and policing.  I am extremely proud to have played my part in the Partnership, but it has been, and continues to be, a huge team effort and it is a privilege to work with you all.”

Forced Marriage – 4 Years Later


Arieta Batirerega- Student

What is Forced Marriage?

Forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family if you refuse).

What  does the Law say?

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry.

This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place);
  • marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not).

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

The Current position

Since 2014, there have been four convictions relating to this across the UK. While legislation has seen a rise in people reporting concerns, many are unaware it is a crime and, therefore do not seek help. .

A government spokesman said its forced marriage campaign was “raising awareness amongst the public and potential victims”. The government is encouraging people affected by this to contact its helpline.

Here at Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic we can advise on family related issues. If we cannot help, we will be able to refer you to another organisation who may be able to assist. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.



Common Law Marriage – peculiarly persistent myth

Arieta Batirerega (Student)

A common law marriage is a term used where a couple live together for a period of time and holds themselves out to friends, family and the community as “being married” but without ever going through a formal ceremony or getting a marriage license.

Over the last few decades, family life and personal relationships in modern UK have changed considerably from same sex marriage to interracial marriage or young people sharing a flat. The fastest growing family are cohabiting couples with 3.3 million families in 2017. Cohabitants do not have any legal status and when relationships come to an end there are no automatic rights in most circumstances for either partner. For example, if one partner dies the other does not automatically inherit their estate.

According to a British Social Attitudes Survey, many people think that unmarried cohabiting couple have the same legal rights as a married couple. It suggests that households with children are more likely to have a misconception about their rights than those with no children. This misunderstanding can have a negative impact on the decisions people make about their lives. When relationships breakdown cohabitants can end up losing their home and income. This especially effects women who are often financially dependent on their partners.

However, there is now the option of entering into a civil partnership for those who wish to form a legal union without a traditional wedding. More awareness is needed on this subject

What is the Government doing to help cohabitant couples?

In Scotland, cohabitants who separate or in cases where a partner dies are given a set of limited rights. In England and Wales, there is little sign of progress by the Government, as there are no plans for the second reading of the cohabitation rights bill in the House of Lords.

As legislation plays an important role in addressing the problems that cohabitant couples face, it is equally important for the wider society and the public to work together in a combined effort to raise awareness about this issue.

SULAC can provide free legal advice on all family matters. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment



Vulnerable teenager housed in a tent by council

Qadir Mohammed -Student

A vulnerable teenager had to be hospitalised after being housed in a tent by Cornwall Council.

The 17-year-old approached the council for help after his relationship with his family broke down and he moved to another town. The teenager had a history of drug use and also had mental health issues.

The council offered him a place to live 30 miles away from the area he knew which he refused. He spent time sleeping rough until eventually he was provided with a tent by the local authority.

The council ended up replacing the first tent with another after it started leaking. The 17-year-old told the BBC that “It was a pretty traumatic experience for me because I’ve always lived in a house somewhere. They should have done so much more. They should have put me somewhere with a roof over my head”.

Due to the council’s repeated failures, this boy became emaciated and he was eventually taken into a psychiatric hospital after he was sexually assaulted. The boy clearly had behavioural and mental health problems, but these made him all the more vulnerable.

The council should have carried out an investigation if they had “‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm”. The council should have assessed the needs of the child and the ability of those who currently cared for him. The parents should have also been interviewed by the council as well to get more information into the boy’s scenario. That clearly didn’t happen in this situation.

Staffordshire University’s Legal Advice Clinic can advise on family and housing matters. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

The major source of ocean plastic pollution you’ve probably never heard of

Nurdles: the not-so-cute Mermaid Tears of the ocean

” ‘Nurdles’ are the building blocks for most plastic goods, from single-use water bottles to televison sets. These small pellets – normally between 1mm and 5mm – are classed as a primary microplastic alongside the microbeads used in cosmetic products – they’re small on purpose, as opposed to other microplastics that break off from larger plastic waste in the ocean.”

Associate Professor, Dr Claire Gwinnett explains on The Conversation here.