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UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences

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Interpretation of evidence

The interpretation of forensic evidence is crucial for its value to be realised. Accurate interpretation enables forensic evidence to be valuable to investigations and to assist a court. Our research addresses a number of areas within the interpretation of evidence domain, and uses different fields of forensic science to identify and assess the key issues. This enables us to develop approaches to harness the value of different forms of forensic evidence. 

Our work is concerned with two main areas:

Cognitive issues

Cognitive issues

Human decision-making is fundamental to the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of evidence. Whilst forensic laboratories must calibrate equipment and validate the processes used to generate analytical results in forensic casework, forensic scientists must also consider the interpretative human processes in play at every stage of the forensic process in the decision-making inherent to evaluating evidence. 

Current research

  • Forensic anthropology: establishing the effect of cognitive biases on the evaluation of skeletal remains when establishing a biological profile, within a range of anthropological methods. 
  • Fingermark analysis: targeting fingermark sufficiency decision making (the process by which a recovered fingermark is assessed to be either of good enough quality to be used for comparison and identification purposes, or to be of too poor a quality to be evidentially useful). 

Research projects

  • Establishing the extent of cognitive issues in the interpretation of forensic evidence within the field of forensic anthropology.
  • Effectiveness of sufficiency decision making in the analysis of fingermarks.

Researchers

 
Dr Ruth Morgan
Helen Earwaker
Sherry Nakhaeizadeh
Dr Itiel Dror
Dr Adam Harris
Dr Carolyn Rando
Lisa Hall (Metropolitan Police)
Bayesian approaches

Bayesian approaches

Our research into the use of forensic evidence in an investigative and court context aims to improve the understanding of the value of forensic evidence for reconstruction and decision making purposes. Recent research in the forensic sciences has improved the search, recovery and analysis of evidence. This research has contributed to the creation of a knowledge-based framework for various types of forensic evidence. However, because uncertainty is a pervasive problem in such situations, the results of forensic analyses are often not sufficient to support propositions in court. 

Current research

  • Applying Bayesian networks into the interpretation of forensic trace evidence. 

Research projects

  • The use of Bayesian networks to develop frameworks for the interpretation and presentation of forensic networks.
  • The role of forensic science research and the usability of forensic evidence.

Researchers

 
Dagmar Heinrich
Nadine Smit
Dr Ruth Morgan
Professor Norman Fenton
Dr Dave Lagnado
Professor Nick Tilley