As part of the MSc/PGD in Forensic Science, the students have the opportunity to undertake a crime scene exercise which provides them with comprehensive direct practical experience of crime scene to court processes and procedures. The exercise involves attending a mock crime scene at the University Stepps Playing Fields, recovering evidence, examining the evidence in the laboratory on their return and then producing a court report.This is also a collaborative exercise as the report produced by the forensic science students then goes to students of the University’s Law School who act as the prosecution and defence when the forensic science students present their evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court in front of a sitting Sheriff.
Centre for Forensic Science
Our Major Crime Scene exercise gives the students the chance to use and build upon the theoretical material delivered to them during lectures and tutorial sessions in the first semester. This includes crime scene management, evidence analysis and producing reports for court.
They also have to take the knowledge learned in their first semester laboratory sessions and progress onto developing a strategy for undertaking the examination of evidence. There is a short timescale placed onto the analysis of the evidence recovered to simulate an environment similar to that found in forensic science laboratories and to also encourage students to problem solve and work effectively as a team, prioritising the examination of their evidence based on the investigative priorities.
The presentation evidence in court as an expert witness is an extremely important skill for any forensic scientist to have. As all students have the opportunity to present their evidence in the Sherriff court, under Scottish jurisdiction, it aids in the development of their oral and written presentation skills as they have to present their evidence in a logical, clear and concise manner and ultimately gives them experience which is highly valued by forensic employers.
The students work with minimal interference from staff at the mock crime scene which allows them to develop their own strategy for examination, building on their problem solving and team working skills.
As the court section of this exercise is interdisciplinary, it offers forensic science students the opportunity to experience the legal perspective of criminal investigations and offers law students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the scientific analysis involved. All students therefore leave with a greater insight into the criminal justice system from crime scene to court.
The feedback from students on this exercise has been extremely positive as they gain a realistic insight into what will be expected of them if they progress onto a career as a forensic scientist.
We aim to make this exercise as realistic as possible and therefore students often experience challenges that can be encountered in real life crime scene examination, including variable weather conditions and time constraints, forcing students to target particular evidence to maximise recovery.
Coordinating and aligning timetables of the Forensic Science and Law School students is challenging and therefore the court section of this exercise runs as an evening sessions outside of traditional teaching hours.
As this exercise is designed to be as realistic as possible, students often need to be reminded that it is a mock learning exercise so there will, at points, be resource limitations and they only have the equipment available in the section for analysis.
Good communication should be maintained with the Law School to timetable precognitions and evidence reviews for the two sets of students.
The number of students involved in this exercise is usually around 35. Students are split over several different mock crime scenes and therefore this exercise has the potential to be scaled up or down as necessary by introducing or removing scenarios.
Designing large scale, case based, practical exercises following a “learning by doing” model has been extremely successful for the MSc/PgD Forensic Science course. It allows students to compound theoretical material along with developing their transferable skills including team working, problem solving and written and oral presentation skills. This model would easily transfer to many other subject areas, particularly those with practical components.
A video about the crime scene exercise can be found at the following link: