Forensic Science in Criminal Trials - LAWS5840

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Lisa Dickson checkmark-circle


This module considers how criminal law makes use of science. Forensic evidence is a rapidly developing area in criminal trials – new techniques are continually being developed and forensic evidence such as DNA profiling is increasingly presented as evidence. This rapid expansion has resulted in forensic evidence becoming increasingly debated in the media and by the criminal justice process – from articles hailing DNA profiling as preventing or undoing miscarriages of justice to those questioning a lay jury's ability to make a judgement in cases involving highly complex scientific or medical evidence.

The module will be broken down into 4 parts:

1. Initially, analysis of the historical development of the use of forensic evidence will be made along with explanation of both what constitutes
forensic evidence and the basic scientific techniques involved.
2. Consideration of the way in which forensic science has developed as a useful tool within the criminal justice process
3. Analysis of the difficulties of placing emphasis on forensic science within the trial system – cases in which forensic science has resulted in
subsequently questioned decisions.
4. Current issues surrounding the use of forensic science: This section of the course will be devoted to considering the questions which arise
out of the use of forensic evidence such as:
• Who should decide whether a new scientific technique should be admissible evidence,
• Who are the experts who present the evidence to juries
• To what extent does the admission of forensic evidence assists juries.


Contact hours

Total study hours: 150
Total contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130


All single and joint honours Law programmes.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Assessment Pattern A – 100% coursework:
Unseen paper 1 – 1250 words (25%)
Unseen paper 2 – 1250 words (25%)
Written coursework, 2500 words (50%)

Assessment Pattern B - 100% Dissertation:
Dissertation, 5000-6000 words (100%)

13.2 Reassessment methods


Indicative reading

A Jackson & J Jackson, Forensic Science (Prentice Hall, Current edition)

• Journal of Evidence and Proof
• Criminal Law Journal
• Oxford Journal of Legal Studies
• New Law Journal

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the development of the use of forensic evidence in the criminal justice process.
2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the issues surrounding the use of established and new techniques of forensic science in the
criminal justice process
3. Critically evaluate the operation of forensic evidence in the criminal law in the social context
4. Engage in reasoned and informed discussion on the major themes surrounding the presentation of forensic evidence in criminal trials
5. Demonstrate detailed accounts of the major issues surrounding forensic evidence in court making appropriate reference to legal and
academic source authorities.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Undertake detailed and critical legal research using interdisciplinary research tools
2. Present critical legal argument and debate in writing
3. Demonstrate potential alternative conclusions for particular situations, and provide supporting reasons for them.
4. Critically identify and retrieve up to date information, using paper and electronic sources;
5. Utilise relevant legal terminology with care and accuracy;


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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