AbstractMurder cases in Flanders are intriguing and the pressure from the media is high. Police and the prosecutor’s office will try everything that is possible to find out the truth and arrest the murderer. One of the possibilities is forensic science, like DNA-analysis, fingerprints, postmortem autopsies and ballistics. The deployment of forensic sciences has increased over the last decades and we can assume that this trend will continue. Police uses the results of these methods and techniques as evidence to build their case. For that reason, it is important that they understand the results and make a correct interpretation. If not, a miscarriage of justice is very likely. Good communication between police and forensic experts is the foundation for an efficient and effective murder investigation.
In this master thesis, I will examine how experts and police communicate about forensic sciences and the interpretation of the results and how they experience this communication by analyzing three murder cases in Flanders. The judicial files give an insight in the formal communication, whereas interviews with significant professionals reflect the reality. The professionals that were interviewed are Case Officers (head of the tactical police), coordinators of the police laboratories and forensic experts, like the pathologist and the ballistic expert. The research identified an imbalance between how these professionals communicate and how they should communicate according to the rules. In theory, all the communication should pass the investigative judge. In practice, it is very likely that the police inspector contacts the expert directly by phone. The communication between the professionals was mainly considered positive. Although, some of the professionals argue that the police laboratories and the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology can play a bigger role in a murder investigation. Their knowledge and experience with both police investigations and forensic sciences could build a bridge between the non-scientific Case Officer and the scientific expert. On the other hand, training and readable expert reports should encourage the Case Officer to make a correct interpretation of the forensic results.
|Date of Award
|1 Jul 2017
|Sofie De Kimpe (Promotor) & Dirk Van Varenbergh (Co-promotor)
- forensic science