Forensic Student Has Article Published About ERASMUS Placement

You may have read our blog piece about Jacqueline McDermott’s experiences on an ERASMUS placement in Italy. The Forensic Investigation student was at Istituto di Scienze Forensi in Italy, one of our EFEN partner companies (the European Forensic Education Network).

She has now written an article about her experiences, which has been published in Interfaces, a newsletter publication from The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

The Society states that “The aim of Interfaces is to keep readers up to date with Society developments. Interfaces contains articles submitted by members, current Society updates, book reviews, events information and more.”

In the piece, Jacqueline explains that “while working at ISF, I have been given the opportunity to get real experience of what working as a Forensic Consultant entails. I have received many opportunities to expand my knowledge theoretically on areas such as road traffic reconstructions, fire investigation, 3D reconstructions and anti-counterfeiting. I have then applied this newfound knowledge practically to real-life scenarios. Throughout my time at ISF I have visited fire scenes, where I have had to take a series of photographs and make my own analysis on
points of origin and what caused the fire.”.

Congratulations Jacqueline, on your placement and publication.

You can read her entry, ‘An Italian ERASMUS Experience’, here:

CSFS_Interfaces_Issue_97_Mar19

A Brief Guide to the European Parliament Elections

On the 23 May, the United Kingdom will go to the polls in the European Parliament elections.

Gareth Evans, Lecturer in Law, provides a brief summary of some of the key points connected to the elections: their purpose and procedure; why the UK is having to take part; and what impact today’s vote could have on the political landscape in the UK.

What are the European Parliament elections?

The European Parliament is one of the two legislative organs of the European Union and is the only EU institution directly elected by the people. Under Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union, elections for the European Parliament are required to be held every five years, electing a total of 751 MEPs across the 28 EU member states. Each member state has a proportion of MEPs calculated by population size; ranging from Malta with 6 MEPs to Germany with 96 MEPs. The United Kingdom elects 73 MEPs through a closed list proportional system (although this is slightly different in Northern Ireland) where each voter casts one vote for their chosen political party, rather than a specific candidate. Seats are then allocated using the D’Hondt formula – a method of proportional representation, designed to better convert the proportion of votes into seats allocated to each political party.

The reason for this difference in voting system reflects the fact that rather than representing specific single member constituencies, as is the case in the UK Parliament, MEPs are elected to represent multi-member regional constituencies. In some member states (e.g. Estonia, Netherlands or Sweden) the state itself comprises a single electoral region. Other member states, the UK included, subdivide their national territory into specific electoral regions. The UK is divided into 12 multi-member electoral regions, each of which then elects a set number of MEPs, based on population size. Grouping these regions and their share of MEPs onto the canvas of the UK’s four constituent nations, we find the breakdown of the number of MEPs as follows:  

England (comprising nine separate regions)   60 MEPs

Scotland                                                          6 MEPs

Wales                                                              4 MEPs

Northern Ireland                                             3 MEPs

Further details on the UK’s regional constituencies, and the political parties in those regions can be found via the following link.

 

Why is the UK required to hold these elections?

Alongside the complexities of the D’Hondt method, there is the added confusion of why the UK is required to hold these elections, two years and eleven months to the day after the referendum where a majority of voters opted to leave the EU. The reason for this scenario rests in the interminable deadlock at Westminster, and the UK Government’s failure to secure a majority to pass the Withdrawal Bill. Under the terms of the Article 50 process, the original date for the UK’s departure from the EU was at the end of the scheduled two-year negotiation process, namely 29 March 2019. The failure of the Withdrawal Bill to pass through Parliament before this date, however, led to the Prime Minister requesting an extension to the original withdrawal date. Originally this led to a new departure date of the 12 April, then further extended to the 31 October 2019. In the terms of this second agreed extension, the UK was obliged to take part in European Parliament elections, or leave the EU on 1 June 2019 with no deal.

The result of this welter of political activity, therefore, sees the UK having to take part in elections for the next five-year term of the European Parliament, while also continuing with the Brexit process. In a further ironic twist, in the albeit unlikely event that MPs support the Withdrawal Bill, set to be reintroduced into Parliament on the week commencing 3 June, the UK’s newly elected MEPs may never take up their seats in the European Parliament on the 2 July 2019.

 A Second Referendum by Proxy?

After having considered the process and reasoning behind Thursday’s vote, it is now appropriate to consider the possible effects of these elections on the UK’s political landscape, and the Brexit process. In this regard, I present the possible issues connected with this Thursday’s vote in three parts:

The first, perhaps most obvious factor connected with the vote, relates to the breakdown of the result between the hard-Brexit and unambiguously pro-remain parties. In the past, European Parliament elections have served as useful second-order polls on voter attitudes towards the UK government, as well as barometers on the extent of Euroscepticism/enthusiasm. Thursday’s vote looks unlikely to deviate from this pattern and, in the context of Brexit, is translatable to a second referendum by proxy.

On current predictions, the newly formed Brexit Party are set to receive the largest share of the vote, but not an overall majority. Indeed, the share of the vote between the hard-Brexit and unambiguously pro-remain parties is currently neck-and-neck, and so a re-run of voter attitudes at the 2016 referendum appears likely. On this point, it is pertinent to consider the percentage share of the vote, as well as the number of seats allocated to each party – both will likely play significantly in later debates on translating Thursday’s vote into a statement of national intention on Brexit.   

Second, with the looming departure of Theresa May as Prime Minister, the outcome of Thursday’s vote is also likely to have profound effects on the future makeup of the Conservative Party. On current polling, the Party are forecast to suffer significant losses across the UK, and possibly their worst ever UK-wide electoral defeat. With a large proportion of the votes forecast to be lost being to the newly formed Brexit Party, the final form of Thursday’s vote and the share of the vote between the hard-Brexit and unambiguously pro-remain parties, stands to play a significant role in deciding the ideological stance of the next leader of the Conservative Party, and the next Prime Minister.

A third, and perhaps less obvious factor to bear in mind after Thursday, is the territorial breakdown of the result across the 12 electoral regions – in particular, the devolved parts of the UK. If treated as a proxy to a second referendum, recent polling suggests that the result on Thursday is likely to mirror the 2016 referendum: delivering clear majorities for pro-remain groups in Northern Ireland and Scotland; a very close result in Wales, perhaps now flipped in favour of a pro-remain majority; and a narrow, but regionally incongruent, majority in favour of leave in England. With this in mind, divisions between the UK’s various territorial cleavages stand to continue to play a role in dividing the political tapestry of these islands, and to challenge the etymology of Brexit as a unified ‘British Exit’ from the EU.

By way of a closing remark, the vote on Thursday stands likely to deliver fresh impetus into the Brexit process; where that process will end, however, remains uncertain.  

 

 

 

Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

Final-Year-Law student, Naz Khan, is the first Staffordshire University student to have had an academic publication in The Legal Cheek.

Drawing on contemporary examples, the article focuses on how things, such as social media and ‘Citizen Journalism’, threaten a legal principal of the UK’s Human Rights Act: ‘the presumption of innocence’.

“Sometimes there can be smoke without fire, says Staffordshire University law student Naz Khan”

In the article, Naz explains that ‘the presumption of innocence, an integral part of the right to a fair trial, exists as a guarantee of an individual’s innocence if and until they can be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. And as we all know, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. But the presumption is systematically ignored as the cases of Sir Cliff, Jackson and many others demonstrate. The media publishes names, and commentators on social media defame.’

The Legal Cheek is a online news source for junior lawyers and law students and it is a great achievement and experience for a student to have their article published.

Naz has said he is “very grateful to be the first ever student from Staffordshire University to have an article published in Legal Cheek. For students it is very difficult to get their work out there. I hope that by having a publication to my name that this will pave the way for other students and encourage them to pursue academic writing”.

Read the full article on The Legal Cheek here.

Farmers have Britain’s most lethal job – here’s how to make them safe

“Britain’s farmers are almost 18 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average industrial worker, and the fatality rate is increasing. Look through the government’s summary of the 33 fatal farm, forestry and fishing accidents in 2017/18 and there were a number of types of fatalities such as falls, crushes, electrocutions and equipment malfunctions. Most people (but not farmers) might be surprised to learn that work with cows is particularly dangerous – “crushed by a bull” was the single most common cause of death.

So what can be done?” Sallyann Mellor, lecturer in Law and Law Apprenticeships Course Leader at Staffordshire University explains, on The Conversation. Read the full article here.  

British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2019

Last week, fourteen of our undergraduate Forensic Science and Forensic Investigation students presented their research at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research at the University of South Wales.

The annual conference, which took place on the 15th-16th April, is held at different universities each year and allows undergraduate students to present their research in a variety of disciplines (read about last year’s here).

The students present their final-year project research in a digital or poster format.

Kirsty Chevannes presenting her research on the Evaluation of Methods Used Within Forensic Anthropology in Comparison to Digital Methods

 

Mauricio Chase discussing his research into The Development and Evaluation of Fingermarks on Firearms from Areas Frequently Handled


Symon Dowell investigated Whether Cutting Agents within Seized Cocaine Affects Quantifiation by HPLC. 

 

Stacey White presented on The Tertiary Transfer and Persistence of Biological Evidence in Child Sexual Offence Cases. 

 

Jessica Woodman – An Investigation into Whether the Partial Drying of Blood Drops Can Aid in the Determination of Sequence of Events of a Crime 


Gareth Griffiths – A Validation Study of Faro Zone 3D for Blood Pattern Analysis


Rodgers Nyika – A Verification into the Effects that Different Temperatures and Substrate Types have on the Effectiveness of Fingermark Development 

 

Rebecca Johnston carried out her research on The Migration of Volatile Organic Compounds through Various Polymer Membranes in Relation to Analysis of Arson Related Materials. 


Mollie Barker presented her poster showing her work on The Creation of an Assessment Tool for Heat Damage to Textiles 

 

Matthew Ballam-Davies presented his research about The Determination of Pedestrian Throw Types using Small-Scale Reconstruction


Lucy Colley – The Use of Non-Destructive Methods to Detect and Measure GSR Spread for the Estimation of Firing Distance at Close Range 

 

Leah Ashton conducted her research project on the Chemical Interpretation of Post Mortem Submersion Interval Changes in Murine Models

 

Katie Evers – A Prediction of Textile Damage from Acid Attacks to Aid the Reconstruction of Events 


Danielle Smith – Determining if Common Child Abuse Injuries are Still Visible on hard and Soft Tissues after Burial 

 

Well done to everyone who attended and presented their research; what a valuable experience! 

Dean Northfield (Forensic Investigation Course Leader, 6th from left) at the conference with our students

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.