A visiting expert has praised the University of New England’s Bachelor of Criminology program for its “forward-thinking” inclusion of forensic science.
Associate Professor Roberta Julian, Director of the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies at the University of Tasmania, was visiting UNE late last month as a member of an external panel reviewing the five-year-old UNE program. She said the program was “unique in Australia” in its linking of criminology and forensic science.
“What’s happening here is exciting,” Dr Julian said. “Among the staff members of what’s seen as an emerging – but quickly growing – degree program here at UNE, there are two academics with expertise in forensic science. Other universities are now seeing the value of linking forensic science to criminology in this way.”
While in Armidale, Dr Julian discussed the possibility of collaborating with UNE in the introduction of forensic science to criminology courses at the University of Tasmania. “We also discussed the potential for collaboration in research,” she said, adding that UNE Criminology had “a growing reputation in the area of rural crime”.
Dr Julian is the chief investigator on a large ARC Linkage project, in partnership with the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, and the National Institute of Forensic Science, investigating the effectiveness of forensic science in the criminal justice system.
“There’s an increasing reliance on forensic science in criminal justice,” she said. “Our research is focusing on what happens at the crime scene – how to improve the education of crime scene examiners and the collection of traces. Effective forensic science begins at the crime scene but, in the past, the crime scene has been regarded as the domain of the police – not forensic scientists.
“Also, in the past there has been a focus on trying to make forensic evidence more useful by making the science better. Our research, however, is focusing on the social processes that underpin the use of forensic evidence. For example: Are the people collecting the evidence at a crime scene competent? What sort of evidence do people in the laboratory give to detectives? Do lawyers understand enough about forensic science to present the evidence in court? And is all this having an impact on justice outcomes?”
“You need to look at the people involved – with an emphasis on the crime scene,” she said.
Dr Julian conducted a seminar about this important project while at UNE.