“Criminal investigations, in the standard case, are oriented towards cracking unsolved crime, identifying perpetrators, launching prosecutions, proving guilt at trial and bringing offenders to justice” (Paul Roberts in Tim Newburn et al, 2007: 95). How are criminal detection and/or investigation moulded and shaped by political, social and/or cultural forces? Criminal detection and proceedings never exist or function independently, the system, as a whole is an inherently complex network of interacting parties, procedures and forces. The shaping of criminal detection by both social and political forces arguably has positive and negative implications for the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The role and influence of information as knowledge or data shapes the investigation socially, there is a reliance on them to solve or reconstruct the crime in the most accurate way possible.
The control of policy and legislation over the investigation both facilitates and constrains the pursuit of justice within the criminal justice system. The lack of research, transparency and understanding of investigative practices has resulted in a number of miscarriages of justice that evidently illustrate that politics has a substantial influence on the criminal detection and investigation process. Criminal detection and investigation is inevitably shaped by its social surroundings, as the nature of crime scene investigation has progressed and changed throughout history the external influences have also changed “ criminal proceedings inevitably reflect their broader social environment “ (Williams & Johnson, 2007). The reactive nature of criminal investigation calls for the collection of information in the form of data and knowledge. Knowledge is based around roles of individuals at the crime scene, potentially having beneficial and adverse effects on shaping the outcome of the investigation. Police have the power to establish a crime scene under Parts 7 of Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities Act 2002 (NSW) however can failure to recognize and do just that.
The recognition of a crime scene and the first respondents actions can shape the remainder of the investigation, failure to establish a crime scene can result in the loss of evidence and loss of potential witnesses “the sooner the recording of the scene begins, the more confident the crime scene examiner (and the investigator) can be in their perspectives and opinions regarding the event (Garrison 2003:73). Furthermore the effective control of a crime scene inregards to roles, coordination and order is shaped by the relationships and understandings between relevant parties. Not understanding the chain of command, policies and procedures can be problematic as each separate party acting as sole entities can result in a an inefficient crime scene and wasted resources.
The reliance on expert opinion in today’s society is reflected in criminal detection, “evidence law requires opinions about forensic interpretation to be presented by a person with specialized knowledge based on training, study or experience that substantially or wholly supports the opinion.” (Gans and Urbas, 2002) However consequently there are issues of relevance, over extended expertise and disagreements or differing opinions on evidence presented. It is normal for reports to encourage the production of reconstruction account of the actions of suspects of crime without indicating how it was made possible, it is formulated general matter based on accumulation professional experts (Williams & Johnson, 2007). Problems with exerts is further extended by the relationship they may have with other parties such as police, pressure and anxiety on forensic scientist to make findings of certainty can result in the misinterpretation or intentional or unintentional obscuring of facts. “relevant body samples were obtained, their secure transportation to a laboratory, their analysis and the detection and recording of DNA profiles can all come under scrutiny in the court process.” (Gans and Urbas, 2002) The law under Police investigation and questioning powers – Part 9 of Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) stipulates the way information can be gained from individuals however statutory safeguards such as the ‘right to remain silent’ and human nature (unclear memory or description) can result in false or fragmented information.
The corroboration or falsification of knowledge obtained through interviews with suspects, witnesses, victims and experts is done through the collection of knowledge through data. Criminalistics and trace-centred forensics is motivated by “ the desire to overcome the ambiguities and interpretative flexibility inherent in human perception” Burney and Pemberton (2013). Data is obtained through the collection of samples of blood, hair, finger prints etc. Data as a means of detection is grounded in Locard’s (1910) theory that if two or more items come into contact, there will be a transfer of material between the two. Development in technology has resulted in an increased reliance on detection through forensic science measures such as DNA profiling and fingerprint analysis, with DNA featuring in Australian cases from 1989 to the present-day. (Freckelton & Selby 2002,) Forensic evidence and DNA matching from the scene can help to confirm suspicion if there is a positive match or insinuate innocence if the match is negative.
As in a larger societal context there is an assumption that science deluges ‘ the truth’ in a criminal detection process this can have detrimental affects and has results in cases of miscarriages of justice “In Australia there have also been several prominent miscarriages of justice, including convictions based substantially on questionable scientific evidence (Carrington et al. 1991). DNA is not always relevant to cases and does not automatically correlate to guilt for example the presence of semen does not prelude rape, as the issue is based on consent. Criminal detection and investigation is shaped by the political landscape in which it exists. The polices, regulations and expectations set by the government and criminal justice system affect the manner is which the investigation is carried out there is a “ background were biometric technologies have been eagerly embraced by the government, and where claims have been made about their efficiency and authority” (Williams & Johnson, 2007).
The law both constrains and facilities the pursuit for justice in regards to investigation. There is a need for police to find those responsible for criminal actions and protection of the public but also maintain a balance with individual liberties and human rights legislation. The manner in which policing is shaped by policy is evident in the investigative process of obtaining DNA. Police are bound by the Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Act 2000 (NSW), under which they are able to obtain DNA from individuals in various forms through both ‘intimate’ and ‘non-intimate’ procedures. Magistrates can ultimately overall individuals who do not consent to testing, resulting in intrusive procedures and breach’s of privacy all in the pursuit if justice. The political landscape further affects the investigation process through the procedures surrounding the presentation of DNA in courts.
DNA evidence can and has been misinterpreted by the Jury and the Magistrate, for example R v Doheny and Adams  1 Cr App R 369. Prosecutor’s fallacy evidently depicts the issue power and influence of DNA in regards to sentencing and the need to reach a conviction “an error in relation to probabilities that usually favors the prosecution. The forensic scientist could make the error in presenting DNA evidence by misrepresenting its probative value.” (Australian Law Reform Commission, 44.28) Polices in regard to presenting DNA need to reflect the complexity and interpretive nature of criminal forensics. Politics significantly shapes the criminal investigative process, evidently not always in a positive way. There is an understandable need to protect the community, however the issues in retrieving and presenting samples of DNA raise serious concerns of human rights issues and politics shaping criminal investigation in an undesirable way.
The criminal justice system does not operate in a vacuum; it is influenced by its surroundings in both a political and social way. Evidently individuals participating in the criminal detection and investigative process are influenced by their professional relationships, roles and duties they have. The collection of data to reconstruct crimes presents issues with establishment, control and coordination of crimes scenes and how the effectiveness and efficiency is shaped by the interaction of relevant individuals. Technology’s influence and prominent position within society and everyday life unmistakably influences the criminal detection process. With a shift towards relying on new technologies such as DNA analysis and finger printing to provide the ‘truth’. Furthermore the political context in which the investigation and detection process exist plays a major role. External political pressure to prosecute affects the investigative process. Politics shapes the way in which police can carry out their job, they are both constrained and facilitated by the law. in the same context individual liberties and rights are subject to manipulation during the investigative process in the search for justice. Social and political forces influence the criminal investigation and detection process in a multifaceted and complicated way, which changes as the external environment changes. Bibliography
Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information in Australia (ALRC Report 96), Part 44.28 May 2003 Burney, I and Pemberton, N ‘Making space for criminalistics: Hans Gross and fin-de- siecle CSI’, Studies in
History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44: 16-25. 2013 Carrington, K., Dever, M., Hogg, R., Bargen, J. & Lohrey, A. (eds) , Travesty: Miscarriages of Justice, Academics For Justice, Kensington, New South Wales. 1991 Gans, J and Urbas, G ‘”DNA Identitifcation in the Crimminal Justice System No.226 Trends and Issues in the Criminal Justice System ” Australian Institute of Criminology, May, 2002 http://www.aic.gov.au/documents/A/8/7/%7BA8774CDA-3A9A-4445-9D88-583757A48003%7Dti226.pdf Garrison D ‘Crime Scene Investigation as a Patrol Function’, Law & Order 51(11), 70–3, 2003 Freckleton, I. & Selby, H. (eds.) , Expert Evidence (looseleaf), Lawbook Co., Sydney. 2002 Locard’s (1910) University of Lyons, France, developed what is known as the Locard Exchange Principle in 1910 Williams, R and Johnson, P (2007) “Trace biometrics and criminal investigations” in Tim Newburn, Tom Williamson & Alan Wright (eds) (2007) Handbook of Criminal Investigation, Willan Publishing, UK, pp 357-380.
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