Stabbing is the most common way of committing homicide in the UK. Following a stabbing pathologists are often asked to provide an estimation of the force involved. Currently this is done using qualitative methods. Our work is aiming to provide quantitative data of the forces involved in a stabbing.
Over the last 10 years, the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit, in collaboration with the Department of Engineering has been conducting a programme of work aimed at establishing quantitative data about how much force is required to stab with a range of implements such as knives, screwdrivers and bottles. Most recently, we have designed a novel dynamometer (force plate) to enable us to measure the forces involved in common actions, such as a push, a punch etc and these will be compared against the forces associated with stabbing with a variety of different weapons.
Although in court the same rating system for force is used for blunt and sharp force trauma they are not comparable. The force generated in stabbings is much greater than that required for penetration (~35-55N). As it has been previously shown that the tip radius is the most important factor in penetration, it may mean it is the most important thing to consider in a stabbing which will change the whole of medico-legal practice. Thus having, potentially, massive ramifications in how stabbings are dealt with in the lab and in court all across the world.