Institute of Criminal Justice Studies

Forensic Innovation Centre

The Forensic Innovation Centre (FIC) is an innovative and unique partnership with Hampshire Constabulary, through which students and academics from the University of Portsmouth can work alongside practitioners in all areas of police forensic science and associated service delivery.

As the first operational police forensic research facility based on a university campus, FIC will lead the country in forensic science research, practice and police work. 

Our work

Research and innovation

Our members share an agenda for the advancement of research and development within police forensic science, underpinned by academic evaluation and rigour. Our research is ongoing in all aspects of forensic science - including digital crime, cybercrime, DNA, and finger mark development - and is already yielding operational benefits, with research findings to be published in academic and professional journals. Some preliminary outcomes have already been presented at the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences Body Fluids Forum.

We place a strong emphasis on cross faculty work and have good links with our colleagues within the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies and across the University's departments. Our operational and academic environment is now well established and ideally placed to build opportunities for innovative and practical forensic research, such as our existing  relationship with Key Forensic Services which will make use of their high-speed DNA profiling equipment.

Teaching

Our research and professional relationships inform the relevant taught courses at undergraduate and Master's levels. Students may, for example, learn to effectively assess forensic evidence at crime scenes through our collaborative teaching programmes, or work with police staff through internship opportunities and sandwich courses. Police staff have also taken up mentoring roles to students and honorary lectureship positions within the University through the FIC, while the university offers mentor training to these staff members.


The support from the staff has been amazing and very much helped me achieve my dream job as a Crime Scene Investigator.

- Millie Buckland-Evers, BSc (Hons) Criminology and Forensic Studies 2017. Read more from Millie at the Faculty blog.


Research Hubs

Forensics foyer

Fingerprint Development Research Hub

Our partnership with Hampshire Constabulary has resulted a move to a more tactical research approach, looking at improving fingerprint development methods and trialling new techniques.  As a result we have implemented a cutting edge finger mark development research facility which has been used as a case example in the Home Office Forensic Science Special Interest Group (Earwaker, Charlton and Bleay, 2015).  The unit has a number of projects completed and on-going in finger mark development including work with other collaborators including Saxony Police Service in Germany.

Digital Forensic Group

Our partnership with Hampshire Constabulary has included the relocation of their Digital Forensic Group to the UoP campus.  This initiative sees the police and academics working together, sharing resources and enables real crime evidence to be examined and analysed alongside researchers and student interns which helps facilitate a two way exchange of expertise.  The venture provides our students with first-hand experience of forensic imaging, significantly increasing employability.

Cybercrime Clinics

Our lead researchers in cybercrime are piloting the creation of a cybercrime awareness clinic that aims to bring together stakeholders from the local community and generate collaborative solutions to cybercrime challenges faced by the different communities and businesses across Hampshire. This pilot project will build educational/prevention programmes to shape reactive strategies in order to enhance awareness and resilience to cybercrime problems locally.  Moreover, it will generate research focusing on identifying the most efficient and effective way for operating such clinics on a permanent basis both locally and nationally.

Developing DNA recovery methods

Work in this field has included changing operational practices to swab glove marks found at crime scenes for DNA rather than recovering the marks for prospective matching with recovered gloves from any arrested suspects. The works has provided a significant increase in positive criminal justice outcomes and has led to an expansion of the research to evaluate Rapid DNA technology and its application to criminal justice.

Firearms and Firearms Discharge Residue

Our research in this field has evaluated methods of detection and recovery of the residue which dissipates after a firearm is discharged.  The findings have led to the adjustment of crime scene processes.

Forensic innovation students

Fire Investigation

The FIC has close links with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Investigation Teams, with students already engaged in work experience internships and sandwich placements as we develop our collaborative research projects in fire investigation.

Forensic Ecology

Our researchers have developed up-to-date methods for crime scene investigators to assist in the recovery of entomological evidence. These methods influenced the update of Hampshire CSI’s protocols and informed the development of a new evidence collection kit. The FIC has enabled the exchange of advice and training in this important area.

Sexual Offences

Our researchers have reviewed disparities between the treatment of victims and suspects in forensic evidence recovery in this subject area.  The study defined the extent of the issues with existing methods and practice and has subsequently influenced modifications in protocols.        

Wildlife Crime

Working with partners in the Portsmouth Business School, we coordinate and lead a broad portfolio of work relating to the investigation of wildlife crime. The FIC is working with other associated stakeholders to research new methods of forensic detection with the intention of informing intelligence networks to enhance the proactive investigation of associated offences.

Human Factors Research Hub

We are utilising well established methods in human factors and ergonomics to look at human cognition and performance in forensic and investigative practice, reviewing systems and associated technology to establish the effectiveness and efficiency of processes.  In turn, we are reviewing solvability factors and how they can be influenced by changes to relevant variables to improve investigative outcomes.

Other work

Other work is utilising contextual inquiry to review investigative behaviours and understanding improved ways of incorporating new and developing technologies.  This is evidenced in the field of Body Worn Video - where devices and associated software is becoming ubiquitous in investigative practice.  Our research is defining good practice and honing the use of the systems to improve evidence and incident capture to address some areas of ambiguity surrounding its utilisation in operations and in its use by the court.   

Winner, THE awards 2015

As a result of building the Centre in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary, the university has been won the Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiative category of the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. 

“This is identifiably a new initiative which delivers clears benefits to both sides,” the judges said. “The way the police are embedded in the course delivery” and the way students gain “highly relevant practical experience”, seem to be “the right kind of employer engagement”.

- THE award programme

Read more:

Winner, THE awards 2015

Members

 

Testimonials

"Having the right buildings, equipment and support is critically important to the provision of excellent policing service – one that puts victims, witnesses and the community at the heart of policing. Opening the Forensic Innovation Centre, as a joint initiative with the University, will see police working with academics and students to help us keep people safe by detecting and reducing crime."

Andy Marsh, former Chief Constable, Hampshire Constabulary

"It is crucial for the University to have close working relationships with the police service to ensure that course delivery and development reflect the changing needs of professionals. It’s also beneficial for police forensic specialists to have access to the academic environment so they can keep up to date with the latest forensic knowledge and research. The new Centre is hugely beneficial for both organisations and has definite potential for even more collaborative work."

Professor Steve Savage, Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies