New forensic house for Portsmouth

A new forensic house which provides, for the first time, a multi-disciplinary student environment for studying crime scene detection has opened at the University of Portsmouth
Students studying forensic biology, criminology, computing, entomology, earth sciences and forensic psychology will use the house, the adjacent waste land and a van parked nearby, to analyse carefully staged crime scenes.

The house was opened by Superintendent Neil Boon, Head of the Surrey Police Training and Development Centre. The Centre, which is now an Associate Department of the University's Institute of Criminal Justice Studies (ICJS), will send police students to use the facility.

The one-bedroomed house and its environs will also be used by other criminal justice practitioners to gain insight into the gathering of crime scene evidence.

"The forensic house will enable students to enhance their skills in logic, observation, induction, deduction, crime analysis, crime reconstruction, criminal behaviour and the building of a chain of evidence required by the justice system," said Professor Steve Savage, Director of the ICJS.

"Previously students would learn many of these skills from books. This hands-on, utterly realistic learning experience will make a significant difference to their skill and confidence levels.

"Students are taught to interpret forensics. Their role is to safeguard a crime scene from interference or contamination, find, keep, analyse and record evidence and learn how to write statement of witness reports, the official documents used in court."

The house will be used to re-enact crimes including domestic violence and murder as well as cyber crimes such as identity theft. CCTV cameras are installed in the bedroom, sitting room and kitchen to film students at work for later review with lecturers.

Students studying entomology as part of their forensic biology degree, for example, will be able to recover and analyse maggots found on "dead" bodies to determine time of death. Final year biology students will detect, recover and examine body fluids, fibre and other physical evidence in the light of the case scenario.

For criminology students, the house will be a tool to test their perceptions of crime scenes and facilitate their learning of how to record what they see. Earth science students will support the crime scene investigation by analysing non-biological material such as mineral particles in soil samples and matching these to reference samples.

Computing students will recover and analyse data planted on the computer in the house and on mobile phones at the scene as well as examining information such as till receipts and other documents.

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