Session Themes

Environmental Soil Forensics

The demands on practitioners and research to deliver methods and data which can be used in criminal or environmental investigations appear to be growing. New proposals for European legislation on the treatment and shipment of waste would make the illegal discharge of dangerous substances into the air, soil and water criminal offences. This raises the stakes for environmental forensic investigations. This session looks at state-of-the-art methodological developments and case studies.

Criminal Soil Forensics

The role of forensic analysis of soils, and related environmental data, have been of demonstrable value as evidence in criminal investigation, highlighting intelligence clues, such as narrowing the geographical location of sample origin and associated vegetation. The opening session will put the state-of-the-art in such analysis, and the challenges faced by science in delivering materials suitable for use in criminal proceedings. Case studies and methodological developments will be presented to highlight the key issues to be faced and lessons that can be learnt from experience around the world.

Geoforensics

Geoforensic investigations are undertaken on criminal and environmental issues. The session will include the role of scientists and academics within a law enforcement investigative framework in relation to homicide searching, and the interpretation of geological and pedological observations and palnyology. Applications of geoforensic techniques range from individual sites (e.g. graves) to coverage of wider geographic areas. Applications to casework being presented include the location of mass graves, non-destructive screening of materials, the analysis of heavy metal content for civil and criminal investigations and tracability of phosphorus in environmental investigations.

Geostatistics, Databases and Geographical Information Systems

The role of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), databases and analysis tools (e.g. geostatistical tools) will be covered, with presentations discussing new types of remotely sensed data, the use of spatial data in areas of search, relating attributes in databases (e.g. of soils or land use) with items found at scenes of crime. Key issues which are also addressed are those of uncertainty in spatial variables in relation to forensic investigations, and the role of statistics and probabilistic reasoning in the evaluation of such evidence.

Biological and Chemical Analytical Diagnostics

The understanding which underpins the tools available to investigators in criminal or environmental forensics is continually being developed, with new opportunities arising. The role of profiling soils and vegetation by, for example, DNA-typing, enables comparisons to be made between site samples and items found on clothing, or other items associated with a suspect. Fingerprinting is also important for environmental forensics for tracability of pollution incidents to soil or water. This session gives an insight into the cutting-edge techniques which are begin developed, or newly in use.

Communications/Advocacy

There are three main methods of detecting crime; witnesses, confessions and forensic science. The instances of witnesses and confessions are declining and therefore more reliance is placed on forensic science. This session will examine how new methods in forensic investigation can develop and the hurdles and issues that need to be addressed for such techniques to be accepted into the fold of the criminal justice system. This will include integration into the investigation process, pitfalls in expert witness evidence and the attitudes and needs of the legal profession when introducing such techniques into the courtroom.

The Global Way Forward

The session will take an overview of soils and forensics from a broad set of perspectives, in particular focussing on interaction with end users. The need for robust approaches for the forensic examination of environmental data, and soils in particular, will be highlighted, and the importance of international collaboration will be emphasised. Key conclusions drawn from the conference sessions will be highlighted for audience comment and feedback, and opportunities for subsequent meetings discussed.