ABC. Assume nothing. Believe nobody. Check everything. This is the mantra of British crime scene manager John Cockram. That is a truly excellent mantra and pretty much covers all you need to know about forensic science. His commentary on crime scene examination is fabulous reading in The Guardian’s The real CSI: what happens at a crime scene?
Along with a recent episode produced by Frontline entitled The Real CSI: how reliable is the science behind forensics and you pretty much get a good idea of what’s going on – good and bad. For example, fingerprints are not infallible: the Madrid bombing case and in the Scottish case of HM Advocate v McKie are excellent examples of this issue. In fact, in the McKie case one of the main findings was:
“The Fingerprint Inquiry Report” December 2011
The subjective nature of fingerprint evidence
Recommendation 1 (Para 35.132)
Fingerprint evidence should be recognised as opinion evidence, not fact, and those involved in the criminal justice system need to assess it as such on its merits.
The England & Wales case of R v T is a controversial commentary in the world of forensic science of the method of interpretation of footwear mark findings. It all adds up to having to check what is being presented in court.
For any forensic science students, jurors, judges, lawyers, interested parties and, in fact, forensic scientists and police officers, these media productions are well worth the effort to read and watch.
Forensic science seems to be like the old rhyme: “There Was A Little Girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid.”