The HIFS Project has been awarded over £200,000 from The Leverhulme Trust to examine the role of science and technology in homicide investigation. Specifically, the research aims to provide an in-depth understanding of how routine and cutting edge forensic science practice contributes to the police investigation of homicide in Britain, exploring the decisions made around these technologies and how the results obtained are used by investigators to develop intelligence and evidence. We have taken a wide definition of forensic science to include forensic biology, fingermarks, trace evidence, pathology, digital evidence and other forms of expert scientific knowledge. The study, the first of its kind in Britain, is being undertaken at a time of significant changes in the funding, organisation and priorities of serious crime investigations and the destabilization of the forensic arena since the closure of the Forensic Science Service. The findings will provide insights into the investigative and evidential consequences of these changes. The research will also benefit the two key participants (police and scientists) by providing an improved understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures, working practices and priorities.
Four police forces from across Britain, and each of the main Forensic Science Providers are participating in the HIFS project. This has involved the collection and analysis of case papers, statements and policy files for 44 homicides and interviews with 140 detectives, scientists and other experts from across these cases. We have spent over 800 hours observing the investigation of eleven of these (‘live’) cases in-depth; shadowing detectives and scientists as they went about their work.