This collaboration aims to put theory into practice for the MSc/PGD Forensic Science students and Law Clinic’s Criminal Convictions Unit (CCU) members.
The collaboration gives forensic science students the fantastic opportunity to engage in real forensic casework under guidance from staff from the Centre for Forensic Science and criminal law practitioners. Forensic students explore the potential for fresh forensic evidence in cases registered with the CCU and use the knowledge they have gained in their studies to date to advise the CCU members on any possible forensic opportunities.
Forensic science students participating in the collaboration become associate members of the CCU. They have the opportunity to attend case meetings, where they become familiarised with project members working on the case and have the opportunity to ask any questions that may arise with regard to the facts, or legal and forensic aspects of the case.
Project members from the CCU are tasked with drafting a proposal, which includes an overview of the cases and work completed to date. This proposal has to be of a sufficient standard so as to allow MSc forensic science students to become familiarised with the case, without the need to process extensive and legalistic case documentation. This provides a learning opportunity for law students on their ability to summarise legal documents concisely and without jargon. Similarly forensic students must provide advice to CCU members using non-scientific terminology wherever possible, again providing an excellent opportunity to develop communication skills which are vital in future employment as a forensic scientist.
The students from the MSc/PgD Forensic Science course have engaged extremely well with this collaboration, with over three quarters of the cohort submitting an application to take part this semester.
This collaboration allows students from the two departments to interact and learn from each other. It has developed the problem solving and communication skills of forensic science participants and it has also encouraged them to take a higher degree of ‘ownership’ of their own learning.
Only a small number of forensic science students can work on this collaboration as there are only a few cases with relevant forensic evidence registered with the CCU at any one time. As this opportunity was so popular with the students, managing their expectations as to the number of students who can be involved at any one time is essential.
There is the potential to scale this project however any increase in participation is directly proportional the amount of cases registered with the Criminal Convictions Unit that have relevant forensic evidence.
Similar student-led projects could be introduced however this model is restricted to departments which overlap in some manner.