Forensic science 360 degree crime scene mapping

By Anna Sandiford 21/04/2012

Revolutionising crime scene investigation seems to be the net result of the 360-degree crime scene mapping developed and used by ESR Forensic, as seen on TV: TV3 News. I’ve seen this technology at work and it does seem to do a great job of recording the scene.

As with all new technologies though we need to know its limitations and understand what has to be considered. Digital experts will want to be able to track any modifications that are done to the raw data and we will also need to have a transparent history of who handled the data and made any amendments and the effects of those amendments. This will range from adjustments at the time the the data was being collected and stored right through to the time that additional information is added to the imaging sequence created. (Apologies if my terminology is inaccurate – I’m not a digital forensic expert).

Perhaps most significantly from a forensic scientist’s point of view will be the addition to the footage of the results of the scientific tests, e.g. the DNA results that can be ‘tagged’ onto the footage. This is a great idea, but only if the results are in no way in contention. If, for example, a blood stain is identified and the result is a mixture of two people, there may be provisos around the interpretation and who is (or is not) represented in that blood stain. These provisos should be represented in the tags on the footage so that they can be taken into account when the footage is viewed – visual representation is a very powerful medium and its impact on the triers of fact should not be underestimated.

Not only are lawyers going to need to check that the science in statements is correct, they are also going to need to check that the results tagged to the footage are correct before it gets shown in court. Otherwise, we could end up with footage that is potentially more prejudicial than probative.