Forensic Science in Criminal Trials - LW584

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) MS L Dickson




Available to Social Science students as wild.



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 case 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.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

10 hours Lectures; 10 hours Seminars (approximately)

Method of assessment

100% coursework consisting of two unseen papers worth 25% each and written coursework worth 50%. 100% dissertation element may also be available. Please contact KLS Undergraduate Office, or access Moodle, for details.

Indicative reading

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

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

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.

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