Homicide Investigation and Forensic Science Project (HIFS)

Homicide Investigation and Forensic Science: Tracing Processes, Analysing Practices (HIFS) Project

The University of South Wales was awarded £216,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to fund the ‘Homicide Investigation and Forensic Science: Tracing Processes, Analysing Practices (HIFS) Project’. The Project involves a collaboration across three Universities: USW, Northumbria University and University of Strathclyde. HIFS is led by Professor Fiona Brookman, who undertook the research and fieldwork alongside Dr. Helen Jones, both from the Centre for Criminology at USW. They are working closely with Professor Robin Williams (Northumbria University) and Professor Jim Fraser (University of Strathclyde) in analysing data and preparing publications.

The HIFS Project is an ethnographic study of what and how forensic sciences and technologies contribute to the police investigation of homicide in Britain. Notably, it includes a broad range of disciplines and technologies, such as DNA profiling, fingerprint examination, blood pattern analysis, ballistics interpretation, trace evidence analysis, and digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and CCTV.

Data were gathered in relation to 44 homicide investigations, including many hundreds of case papers and documents; 144 in-depth interviews with detectives, forensic scientists and other experts from four British police services and three private forensic service providers; and fieldnotes made during 700 hours of shadowing 11 ‘live’ homicide investigations. Professor Brookman and Dr. Jones entered crime scenes, accompanied detectives on house-to-house and CCTVenquiries, and attended daily briefings, forensic strategy meetings, senior management meetings, barristers’ conferences and different stages of the trial process.

The project team have disseminated early findings at a number of academic conferences and to over 250 police and forensic science practitioners at the National Review Officers conference (October 2018) and through presentations at the research sites (November – December 2018). To support these sessions, a ‘Research Insight Briefing Paper’ was produced and circulated, which can be read here

Analysis of the data is continuing and Professor Brookman and Dr. Jones are looking forward to exploring their findings and ideas further as part of the HIFS Symposium in May 2019. This international event will involve interested academics and practitioners from across Britain and Europe.

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