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Robust crime reconstruction requires the accurate, transparent and reproducible interpretation of evidence. Forensic science is considered to be facing a crisis on a global scale. Reconstructing a crime can involve discovering who was involved, what is the material evidence present, when and how the event occurred, and where it took place. Forensic science is a holistic process, which brings together a crime scene (preserved clues and specimens), an analysis of recovered materials, and the interpretation (and presentation) of this to a range of different audiences including the police, investigators, advocates, the courts, and the public. Forensic science addresses the ‘who’ and ‘what’ questions using physical and digital materials, interprets the findings from the analysis of these materials in order to answer ‘how,’ ‘when’ and ‘where,’ generates intelligence for investigators (often within the police) and evidence for prosecutors, legal advocates, judges, and in some jurisdictions members of the public serving on juries - and incorporates an understanding of the role of someone who must reach conclusions about what the available science means within the specific context of a particular case. However, since 2009 government reports published in the US, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere have expressed concerns about forensic science, identifying a lack of peer-reviewed research to underpin each step of the forensic science process. This lack of peer-reviewed research impacts the collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation of science evidence, and the robustness of interpretations and conclusions drawn from the science, according to the reports. In the UK, for example, the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee published a report in 2019 that identified failings in the delivery of forensic science in criminal justice systems in England and Wales, and called for urgent and systemic reform. Many of the reports have highlighted concerns about the validity of forensic science methods - such as hair analysis and bite mark analysis. One FBI study published in the US suggested that in 96% of cases where hair evidence had been used to incriminate a suspect, the evidence had been overstated or misinterpreted. Meanwhile concerns have been raised about the interpretations and conclusions drawn from science that are being applied in justice systems. A study in the UK found that in cases upheld by the Court of Appeal between 2010 and 2016, criminal evidence was misinterpreted in 22%. In addition, significant concerns have been raised about the regulation of forensic science services, and equal access to forensic science for both the prosecution and defence.

Forensic Science

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Demands for Justice