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New forensic institute at the University of Leicester will help police forces solve ‘unusual crimes’

Posted on 15/08/2012
University of Leicester

New forensic institute at the University of Leicester will help police forces solve ‘unusual crimes’

The University of Leicester is establishing a new forensic science Institute which aims to help UK police forces solve unconventional crimes.

The Alec Jeffreys Forensic Science Institute is a new multi-disciplinary centre at the University of Leicester which aims to help police forces with some of the requests handled by the former Forensic Science Service (FSS).

The new Institute aims to be a leader, innovator and agenda setter in the field of forensic science and is named after the world renowned University of Leicester scientist Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, of the University's Department of Genetics, who pioneered techniques for DNA profiling and fingerprinting which are now used globally by police forces.

Professor Jeffreys said: "This is a very exciting new initiative, and I am so proud to have it named after me. The provision of forensic science in the UK has undergone major and potentially damaging changes in recent years, so this Institute has real potential to provide much-needed breadth and depth of expertise, especially in complex casework, as well as a voice for the proper funding of forensic science research in the UK".

The Institute will initially involve the departments of Chemistry, Criminology, Engineering, Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and will involve local and national police agencies in its running.

The project has been undertaken by Dr John Bond, a senior lecturer in Forensic Sciences in the Department of Chemistry who was awarded an OBE last year for his services to forensic science, and Dr Lisa Smith, a lecturer in the Department of Criminology. Dr Bond’s work on Visualizing Fingerprint Corrosion of Metal was voted one of the top 50 inventions of 2008 by Time Magazine and one of the inventions most likely to change the world in 2009 by BBC Focus Magazine

Dr Bond said: "The time is now right for forensic science research in the UK to be put on a sounder footing, with proper funding streams provided by the UK research councils so that institutions such as the University of Leicester can undertake meaningful and productive research to enhance the use of forensic science to detect crime both in the UK and overseas.

"We aim to provide a forum whereby problems in policing can be aired and ways found to overcome them. We will do this by involving local and national agencies in the running of the Institute and by focussing on problem areas identified to us by the police service."

The ways in which forensic work is carried out is currently going through a period of change, with much work now contracted out to private companies - but staff at the University of Leicester hope the new Institute will be able to help police forces with unusual requests.

Dr Bond said: "What we do want to offer is the ability to consult on unusual cases or pieces of evidence. A recent example was a request made to the University to oversee the analysis of evidence from a 80-year-old murder case as the University was seen to have specific skills in that area."

Dr Smith said: "This new Institute is unique in its multidisciplinary approach to forensic science and criminal justice services. By bringing together the various disciplines at the University (who traditionally work separately from one another), we will be able to provide the Criminal Justice System with a wider range of expert consultancy, research and innovation, teaching and continuing professional development."

It is hoped existing forensic science courses, including the new distance learning MSc in Forensic Science and Criminal Justice, will be run from the new Institute.

The institute will be formally launched at the University on Monday 19 November in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Robert Burgess and Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys.

Pictured, L-R: Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys examines a genetic fingerprint with Dr John Bond and Dr Lisa Smith.

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