Forensic Sciences – Dr Stefano Vanin — 26th February 2018.

Dr. Stefano  Vaningave gave  a fas­cin­at­ing insight into the world of Forensic Science , stress­ing that its role is to  provide evid­ence by recon­struct­ing the crime scene for others to make their judge­ments.  He is a Reader in Forensic Biology at Huddersfield University.  He said that Forensic Science is the applic­a­tion of the sci­ences (from archae­ology to zoology)  to crim­inal and civil laws and can give evid­ence for the pro­sec­u­tion or the defence .   It covers all crimes from murders, rape, burg­lar­ies to less obvi­ous offences  such as art fraud, com­puter hack­ing and money laun­der­ing.  The sci­ent­ists col­lect, pre­serve and ana­lyse sci­entific evid­ence. They can travel to the scene of the crime or have a labor­at­ory role per­form­ing the whole spec­trum of ana­lysis.

A French sci­ent­ist, Edmond Locard , developed the prin­ciple that crime cannot happen without leav­ing a trace. He stated whenever two objects come into con­tact with one another mater­i­als are exchanged.   Wherever you stop, touch or step you uncon­sciously leave a silent wit­ness to your pres­ence . ( I now real­ise why the TV detect­ive pro­gramme was so called)  However, the prob­lem with sci­entific evid­ence is the human fail­ure to find it, study it and  inter­pret it cor­rectly, thus dimin­ish­ing its value. Again, Locard states that you are never alone. Your body is covered by bac­teria with each of us having a micro­bial cloud which dif­fer­en­ti­ates you from another. In short we are dis­pers­ing ourselves all the time a boon for the forensic sci­ent­ist to check our move­ments.

Everybody has a unique genetic pro­file called DNA and like fin­ger­prints can spe­cific­ally identify you.  DNA was first used in 1984 developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys who real­ised the vari­ation in genetic code could be used to identify  indi­vidu­als and tell one from another.  Sir William Herschel was  per­haps the first to see the bene­fits of finger print­ing and today it has been developed into the power­ful tool in the armoury of the forensic sci­ent­ist.

Stefano described sev­eral invest­ig­a­tions which demon­strated many forensic tech­niques includ­ing  the ana­lyse of plants, pollen, soil , bal­list­ics , decom­pos­i­tion of bodies, insects and a whole range of evid­ence at the crime scene acting as a silent wit­ness.  A most inter­est­ing and stim­u­lat­ing talk, prompt­ing many ques­tions from our mem­bers.