Policing and Forensics – Careers and Employability Event a Great Success

Wednesday 10th February saw around 70 students joining academics, alumni, police professionals and university careers staff on MS Teams to raise awareness and better equip students for applying for roles in policing and the wider forensics jobs market.

The event was borne out of conversations with police specialists who felt that former students applying for roles within Police Forensics weren’t giving themselves the best chance of being selected for interview.

The event was organised by Dean Northfield, the School of Law, Policing and Forensics Placement Coordinator, and Martyn Hordern, the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Coordinator, with initial discussions taking place last autumn before the current lockdown.

Undeterred, an MS Team’s event was arranged and speakers were gathered to assist in as many ways as possible. The event saw two former students giving their thoughts on police and private role applications, a former Police Assistant Chief Constable demystifying the police application form and a current police Digital Forensic Coordinator giving his guidance and advice. Also present were police recruitment specialists, and specialists from the Institute of Policing and the University Careers Relationship team, supported by a student Careers Coach.

Vicky Cook from the University’s Careers Relationship team talked about students’ online presence and said “if you wouldn’t want your gran to see it don’t put it online”, emphasising that prospective employers will check what potential employees are doing online.

Former students Becky Teague and Kira Low gave their experiences as graduates from 2020. Becky had also been a police Special Constable and was now working with a private digital forensics company. Kira meanwhile works for Norfolk Constabulary in their Digital Forensics Unit. Both gave some insightful advice from the differing application processes used to prepare yourself whilst still at University.

Ian Ackerley, Course Leader for Policing and Criminal Investigation and a former Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) with Staffordshire Police, shared some helpful tips and advice on how to turn a good application into a very good one, whilst at the same time preventing a very good application becoming just an adequate one.

Adam Newbery from Staffordshire Police’s Digital Forensics Unit gave some insight into finding Police roles, preparing yourself, having a career plan and how to sell yourself in the application form.

The day concluded with Dionne Johnson (from the Staffordshire Police’s Recruiting Team) sharing police career advice, including the STEP IN process to assist potential applicants, and Bethany Hepher from the Institute of Policing, who talked about the PCDA and DHEP (Police Apprenticeship) routes into being a Police Officer.

Martyn Hordern said “I am sure that each and everyone of [our guests] will have helped those on the call to be better prepared to apply for and hopefully get roles within forensics, policing, or similar”.

Dean Northfield said after the event, “we are really passionate about employability skills and it was refreshing that so many common themes went through each presentation”. He added that it was hoped for such an event to become a fixture going forward.



International Book Giving Day

The 14th February is not only Valentine’s Day, it is also International Book Giving Day. The day is a volunteer initiative aimed at increasing access to books. We asked staff to suggest some books from their subject areas (both fiction and non-fiction) that they enjoyed reading and that others may find interesting.



Blue: A memoir: Keeping the Piece and Falling to Pieces by John Sutherland

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director






Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials that Defined Modern Britain by Thomas Grant

Suggested by: Jo Beswick, Law Lecturer








Crossing the line: Lessons from a Life on Duty by John Sutherland

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director





I am Pilgrim: Can You Commit the Perfect Crime by Terry Hayes

Suggested by: Dr Fran Stubbs-Hayes, Forensics Lecturer





In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence by Rhodri Jefreys-Jones

Suggested by: Associate Professor Tony Craig, Lecturer in International Studies






In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

Suggested by: Jo Beswick, Law Lecturer





Isis: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M Berger

Suggested by: Aman Jaswal, PhD Researcher







On The Farm: Robert Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancourver’s Missing Women by Stevie Cameron

Suggested by: Emma Tilley, Policing Lecturer for the Institute of Policing




Police Socialisation, Identity and Culture: Becoming Blue by Sarah Chapman

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director






Research Ethics: In the Real World by Helen Kara

Suggested by: Sarah Page, Criminology Lecturer





Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister

Suggested by: Dr John McGarry, Law Lecturer




Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Suggested by: Professor Graham Williams, Forensics Lecturer






The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken

Suggested by: Abbeygail Standen, Policing Lecturer for the Institute of Policing






When the Dogs Don’t Bark: A Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth by Angela Gallop

Suggested by: Professor Graham Williams, Forensics Lecturer

International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances: How Can Forensics Assist in the Location and Identification of Victims of Enforced Disappearances?

Please note this blog post addresses deceased individuals and human remains.


The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances takes place on Sunday 30th August 2020. According the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (2010), an enforced disappearance can be defined as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.” Enforced disappearances are not confined to one country or continent, nor did they only happen in the past. Thousands of children and adults disappear on a yearly basis around the world.

Those working within Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology have been involved in the search, recovery, and identification of victims of enforced disappearances for several decades. At Staffordshire University, this an area covered on our Forensic Science and Forensic Investigation Undergraduate degree programmes. Our Forensic Investigation students not only have the opportunity to learn how to identify skeletal remains, but they also develop the skills needed to construct biological profiles for the purposes of identification. Students will also learn how to identify skeletal remains that have been subjected to taphonomic processes, which may occur naturally or may be an intentional act to conceal remains (e.g. burning). Identification skills are developed and put into context through the use of scenario based practicals and case studies are used to enable exploration of how forensic anthropologists have identified victims of enforced disappearance around the world, e.g. from present-day Mexico, Argentina’s military Junta, and the Spanish Civil War. Enforced disappearances are focused upon in detail, including the protocols that are followed in the search, recovery, and identification of human remains from a range of contexts in Iraq, Cambodia, Argentina, and Bosnia, to name but a few.

The importance of locating and, indeed, identifying those that have lost their lives following enforced disappearance is two-fold. Firstly, we must consider human rights of the deceased. As Claire Moon (2019, 55) highlights, the deceased “have the rights to identity, to return to families, and to proper burial”, and such rights may act “to compensate for rights that have been stripped away in life”. Secondly, we must assist the living that are left behind when family members and friends disappear. Without the identification of their loved ones, family members are left searching for answers and, in some cases, take it upon themselves to try and locate their kin. For example, in Argentina in the mid-1980s, families would carry out searches for the disappeared, whilst in present day Mexico, families are employing forensic techniques to locate and identify their kin (Moon 2020). Enforced disappearances destroy the lives of families and communities, but those of us working within forensics can give the living and the deceased a voice. We should not only be training the next generation of forensic scientists, but carrying out outreach to support the families that have been left behind.   

If you would like to know more about enforced disappearances, there is a plethora of resources online. However, I would recommend the following Twitter accounts for up-to-date information.


Equipo Argentino de Anthropología

Human Rights, Human Remains (research project led by Claire Moon): 

United Nations

UN Human Rights


Dr Kirsty Squires

Senior Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology





Moon, C. 2019. What Remains? Human Rights After Death, pp.39-58. In: Squires, K., Errickson, D. and Márquez-Grant, N. (eds.) Ethical Approaches to Human Remains: A Global Challenge in Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology. Cham: Springer.

Moon, C. 2020. Extraordinary deathwork: New developments in, and the social significance of, forensic humanitarian action, pp.37-48. In: Parra, R.C., Zapico, S.C. and Ubelaker, D.H. (eds.) Forensic Science and Humanitarian Action: Interacting with the Dead and the Living. London: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances. 2010. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance [online]. Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/ConventionCED.aspx



Natter Me Duck

Policing Lecturer and Mental Health Coordinator, Deborah Sproston-Bewley, talks about the ‘Natter Me Duck’ initiative she created to help out students during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Within a few days in March the measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 became immediate and were drastic. You don’t have to be at the epicentre of the pandemic for your life to be turned upside down; due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it is a scary time for students.

Our campus became quiet and our classes moved on-line, all of which impact on the students.

We have students who are still living on campus and maybe feeling sad and isolated.

I am the Mental Health Coordinator for the school, and as such I thought about what I could do while we were all in lockdown and unable to communicate with each other on a regular basis. 

I came up with Natter Me duck, which is a platform through collaborate that students can log into on a specific day and just have a natter, not just with me but with other students.  For those of you that don’t know in Stoke-on-Trent duck is a common phase used.  E.g. you OK duck?

The idea behind ‘Natter Me duck’ was for students to natter about anything.  From how I cut my fringe? how do I bake a cake? or I’m suffering with anxiety due to void 19. It is a place where students can share their experiences and support and advise one another.  

The main aim is just to have a natter and for students not to feel isolated and on their own.  

An e-mail is sent out to all 750 students in our school which informs them of the date and time of a ‘natter me duck’ session and gives them the link to join.

Stoke-on-Trent to the Caribbean: the Amazing Experience of a Recent Forensic Investigation Graduate

Aimee Girdham graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Forensic Investigation in 2019. This short blog from Aimee discusses her recent experiences that saw her completing her degree in Stoke-on-Trent and then working in the Caribbean.

Aimee on graduation day

My course at University was fantastic, allowing practical, hands on experience in the world of Forensics whether in the Crime Scene House or in the State-of-the-Art Laboratories. A variety of specialist subjects were taught, that allowed a wide range of investigation and analytical skills to be developed. Getting involved in other activities, such as the Staffordshire Police Partnership Placement and International Week in Belgium, helped develop myself as a person but also my employability skills, which are incredibly important post-University.

All the lecturers were supportive throughout the course of my degree and it was after a chance conversation with Dean Northfield that he put me in touch with Acumè Forensics (a digital forensics presentation company). After being invited for an interview, I was successful in gaining a position as Courtroom Operator in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I received training in the Birmingham and Bristol Magistrates Court, learning about what my role would entail.

Beautiful blue waters and white-sand beaches


“My course at University was fantastic, allowing practical, hands on experience in the world of Forensics whether in the Crime Scene House or in the State-of-the-Art Laboratories. A variety of specialist subjects were taught, that allowed a wide range of investigation and analytical skills to be developed.”


From getting the job, to training to flying out to the Caribbean took place within a couple of weeks.

For the few months I was out there, I was having a brilliant time! The courtroom was built in the old hospital building specifically for this trial which is now in its fifth year. The trial has produced over 2,000 different documents as exhibits. During the trial, there have been a few incidents when the computers have gone down but nothing major and I have been able to fix the problem. Power cuts also make an appearance from time to time and the whole system goes down but again, thankfully nothing major and the issues are fixable. Before this job I wouldn’t go near technology, but I now have more confidence to at least look for the solution and attempt to fix it myself.

I have also been updating iPads using an Apple Mac, making sure the Judge and the Barristers have the correct and updated documents, which I have never done before and actually like doing. The case is an interesting one and I am enjoying being a part of it and I enjoy doing the job I do. When I explain my role to other people, it sounds simple just getting exhibits up on the screen for the court to see and following instructions, but it is so much more than that.

“The case is an interesting one and I am enjoying being a part of it and I enjoy doing the job I do”

I work for 3 weeks then get 1 week off and also have weekends off, so have plenty of time to explore. Before Coronavirus, I booked a trip to New York during the week off at the beginning of May, but unfortunately had to cancel. I hope to rebook at some point though and also have other trips to more places in the USA, such as Miami and around the different Islands like Grand Turk.

Turtle spotted near my Aimee’s apartment

The culture in TCI is amazing with a weekly Fish Fry event on a Thursday night. Here, they have several food and souvenir stalls with live music. Live music is common and popular in bars and at restaurants throughout the week. I go out to lunch on a Friday afternoon with the Barristers so get to sample different restaurants. It is nice to hang out with them in a different setting, as you get to see a different side to them. Tony and Co who are ex-financial investigators and ex-police officers involved in the prosecution team are out there with me and they have all been brilliant. I would be lost without them and they are great fun and I am learning lots from them too.

There are lots of events that happen every month throughout the year including the 11th Anniversary Race for the Conch Charity Swim in August, Into The Pink 12th Year Anniversary Party in October fundraising for the National Cancer Society and the Annual Conch and Caribbean Food and Wine Festivals in November.

There was an annual fishing tournament which I witnessed not long before coming back to the UK. Every year competitors fish for the biggest/heaviest fish they can get, and the one that weighs the most wins the competition and then the fish are auctioned off afterwards. You get to see the weighing and auction take place and is very interesting to watch.

Fishing tournament – auction

I have tried the local delicacy of Conch. It is a bit like Calamari but chewier and comes in many forms: cracked, blackened, chowder, fritters etc. As expected, there is a lot of seafood on the Island. I tried Lobster for the first time (which is delicious but only available during the Lobster season) Coconut Shrimp, and even Shark. At the Fish Fry event, you can even see Conch being pulled out of its shell and if I knew what it looked like before I tried it, it would have deterred me.

Coconut Snapper at a restaurant – one of the many on the Island


Conch (and the exquisite Conch Shells!) at the Fish Fry Event

It is a whole different way of life over there compared to the UK. Nothing is completed with any urgency, but it is very relaxing. I am lucky to be able to walk on the beach after work watching the sunset, go snorkelling and diving during the weekends, and have recently been introduced to yoga on Sundays, which is extremely refreshing! It is also more expensive to live over there, with a bag of grapes costing anywhere between $6 and $10! I do miss Aldi!

I have really settled into it and have met so many different people which is really nice. I got introduced to someone through one of the Barristers and she has now moved into the apartment above mine, so we have naturally become good friends.

Relaxing on the beach after yoga on a Sunday morning

I play Netball on a Wednesday night and hope to help set up and run a Lacrosse programme when I go back, alongside a Coach that comes occasionally.

I can now drive on the Island – first time driving an automatic car which has changed my views of driving a manual car. It is a bit different and slightly bigger than my Citroen C1 but that’s all part of the experience.

In February, I officially became an SSI Open Water Certified Diver. It is incredible and a different world to see, even to swim among sharks!

Turtle spotted when snorkelling

I am currently back in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic, but I hope to go back to Turks and Caicos Islands in the near future, possibly September time if everything goes to plan. In the meantime, I will be working in the Acumè Forensics office in Leeds, working remotely towards the end of next month. I hope to be out in the Turks and Caicos Islands until the end of the trial, however long that might take. I am making the most of my time over there and I am loving the work and life experience it has given me.

Stunning sunset at the beach













A Journey of a Final Year Project in Forensic Investigation

This blog details the journey through a final year project of Gareth Griffiths, who recently graduated from the School of Law, Policing and Forensics with a  BSc(Hons) in Forensic Investigation. It includes comments from Project Supervisor Mr Dean Northfield and Industry Expert Eugene Lisco, who helped Gareth on his journey.

Gareth Griffiths

To find out more information about our forensic investigation degrees please visit the Staffordshire University website.

Gareth’s research project title was ‘Accuracy of Area of Origin Analysis on textured, wallpaper surfaces’ using FARO ZONE 3D (FZ3D).

Gareth states that “Networking skills gained throughout the course allowed me to connect with professionals within the forensic field. I connected with Eugene Liscio on LinkedIn, where I discussed my final year project. Eugene invited me over to Canada to work with himself, Helen Guryn and Quan Le on my project. They trained me on FZ3D and assisted in the practical work.

“I also attended the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts (IABPA) Conference, where I was introduced to experts within the BPA community. After analysing the data, I was invited to present my findings at the IABPA conference in Ottawa. This allowed me to gain confidence and public speaking skills. During the conference I assisted in workshops training police officers on FZ3D.

“I also presented my findings at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) [where our attendance was] organised by Staffordshire University. I decided to publish my research in the IABPA journal, which was accepted in March 2020. I am proud of the publication, since the paper has been published many experts within the BPA community have praised me for my work ethic and determination to succeed.

Gareth Griffiths presenting his research

“I am currently doing a PhD in Forensic Science at Staffordshire University. I will be returning to Canada in the near future to work with Eugene on other projects relating to my PhD. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Eugene Liscio, Helen Guryn, Quan Le, Dean Northfield and David Dustin for their constant support throughout my final year project. I am currently writing two papers with my PhD supervisor Professor Graham Williams. I intend to have these published in the Journal of Forensic Science by December 2020”.

Here is the link for the ‘Accuracy of Area of Origin Analysis on textured, wallpaper surfaces in the IABPA journal.

Dean Northfield, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Investigation, Staffordshire University.

Dean said “It is great to see the journey that so many of our forensic investigation graduates undertake. As a Lecturer and a project supervisor it is wonderful to see new and innovative ideas being explored, projects planned, data collected, analysis being conducted and reports generated.

“It is inspiring to witness hard work being rewarded. Gareth’s journey demonstrates the wonderful experience and opportunities that exist through networking with professional experts in the fields of forensics, I am proud of Gareth’s achievement to date, as I am of so many of our past and present Forensic Investigation students and graduates; present and past many of whom I remain in contact with”.

Eugene Lisco 

Eugene Lisco, ai2 – 3D said “when Gareth first contacted me over the internet, I wasn’t sure what to think (since I get regular inquiries from students internationally).  However, it was clear from the beginning that he was committed to coming to Canada and was going to learn how to perform an area of origin analysis in 3D.  He spent many days with us preparing, learning and setting up his experiment.  Once he was ready, he pushed through all the data capture and analysis.  I was most impressed with his passion and dedication to his project. 

“During the few short weeks he was in Canada Gareth attended a forensics conference, fired a handgun for the first time with the York Regional Police, finished all his data capture and was a great representative for Staffordshire University.  To top it all off, Gareth was able to publish his work in the latest IABPA Journal.  Gareth Griffiths has come a long way in a very short time and we wish him all the best in his future PhD studies”.

Ninth, Annual FACS Conference

On the 22nd April, the Forensic and Crime Science Society (FACS) held their ninth, annual student-led conference. This event usually takes place in the Science Centre, but this year our students didn’t let Covid-19 deter them and hosted the event online.

The event was organised by Jade Wheeler, the president of the FACS Society and a Forensic Investigation student, along with Dr Rachel Bolton-King and “our brilliant, friendly and brave level 6 students in forensics and policing to share the findings of their final year research”.

Rachel also said that “I think the students have done a brilliant, professional job with their presentations”.

Rachel kicked off the conference with a Welcome Talk, outlining the importance of the conference.

Jade Wheeler then outlined the event and introduced each of the presenters and their research topics.

Lauren Yare, a Forensic Investigation student, presented her research first on the ‘Effect of Fabric Type on Knife Identification using Stab Damage’.

Next was Lauren James, a Forensic Investigation student, who present her research on the ‘Effects of Restricting Air Circulation and Oxygen on Decomposition’.

Third was Rebecca Neville, a Policing and Criminal Investigation student, who presented her research on ‘The Reliability and Accuracy of Available Doorstep Crime Data. This video is confidential and is therefore unavailable to view.

Finally, Shan Pryce, a Forensic Investigation student, presented her research on ‘Public Perceptions and Reporting of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Associate Professor Rachel Bolton-King concluded the event with a Closing Speech, congratulating the students for all of their hard work.

Laura Walton-Williams also presents a Careers Talk for anyone interested in pursuing a career in Criminology, Forensics, Law, or Policing.

You can watch all of the videos of the FACS Conference here.

Well done to everyone who took part!

An international survey into the analysis and interpretation of microscopic hair evidence by forensic hair examiners

Congratulations to Dr Claire Gwinnett and Laura Wilkinson (PhD Researcher) who have had their paper published, ‘An international survey into the analysis and interpretation of microscopic hair evidence by forensic hair examiners’

“This investigated global approaches to forensic hair examinations in criminal casework – something that has not been done before in this manner and this sets the current scene in the perceptions and methods being used in forensic hair examinations by forensic hair experts. This comes post global scrutiny of such evidence and highlights still the need for change and better standardized objective methods for interpretation.”

Placement in Germany: Germany Evofinder Training

Symon Dowell, an MSci Forensic Science student, tells us about his exciting placement in Germany. 

In my final year of my Forensic Science MSci undergraduate degree it is a requirement to conduct a three-month placement. This can be in research, a work placement, or a mixture of the two, inside or outside of Staffordshire University. My placement, in ballistic imaging, is to develop a database for statistical modelling and forensic firearm identification. The placement will consist of using the ScannBi Evofinder to image fired test samples sent by firearm experts from all over the world.
In order to conduct my placement Dr Rachel Bolton-King and I travelled to Lübeck, Germany, to conduct training on the Evofinder, being taught by the company, ScannBi. A huge thank you to everyone at ScannBi but especially to Aleksandr Skvortsov for being an excellent trainer. The ScannBi Technology company was founded by a group of specialists in different fields to create an effective tool for ballistic expertise.

Miniaturised aerial view of Lübeck

The training started from the very basics of the Evofinder system teaching us how to use the system, and what every single icon does on the software and when we would need to use them. A cassette is used to hold the bullet or cartridge case in place and is inserted into the Evofinder. There are many different adaptors available to hold the samples in place and we were taught which component to use with different types of samples. We also got to have plenty of hands on practise with the Evofinder, imaging some samples which were in good condition with easily identifiable impressions to other samples with very little visible impressions or were just fragments of a bullet, which were interesting to image but required more skill with the equipment to image them properly.

This was my first experience of being taught outside the UK and working in a technology company environment. Although I was nervous, I was also very excited to learn about their technology and to be able to use it confidently and hopefully competently. It was very interesting listening and speaking to both the ScannBi owner, their employees and Rachel regarding ballistic examination around the world.
The training took place during normal working hours, 9am to 5pm, meaning all other time outside of this was ours. This allowed us to travel around the wonderfully colourful German Christmas markets, of which there were many, with a variety of different stalls, with the main theme of food, drink (some alcoholic of course!) or crafted objects, or a mixture of the three. Every lunchtime we would walk to the same café which served some amazing food, and, in the evenings, we would dine on food from the Christmas markets. Except, after the first day of training the ScannBi Company kindly invited us out for a very delicious meal.

Conducting this training has not only given me the skills to be able to use the Evofinder competently but has given me the confidence to be able to travel to a new environment and be taught by professionals, learning new information, developing existing and new skills.

‘The ScannBi Technology company was founded by a group of specialists in different fields to create an effective tool for ballistic expertise.’

I chose to apply for this work placement with Rachel because I wanted to do something that would be fun and interesting, and I did not have a clear idea as to what I want to do after my university degree. Therefore, I decided to go for an area where I have little experience in. The requirements for this placement were to have good attention to detail and to be able to carry out repetitive work sticking to operational guidelines, but it was not necessary to have a vast knowledge of ballistic examination.
The alternative option

for conducting this training would have been for Rachel to attend the training alone and to teach me at the start of my placement in January. This would have given me a free week back in December to go on holiday, relax and enjoy the start of the Christmas break not conducting any work. However, this was never an option for me, I wanted the experience of traveling to a new country and to learn new information. I am glad I went to Germany, as I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the trip and would recommend to anyone else in this situation to conduct the training first-hand instead of the alternative.

My advice to anyone who is currently on the Forensic Science/Investigation MSci course or anyone looking at changing to the MSci course or doing a placement year apply for something different, potentially out of your comfort zone as you may never of thought of doing that area in the future but after doing your placement that’s exactly what you could be doing. Also, like myself, you may get the chance to travel abroad and receive training, or conduct research, and add a new experience to your CV.