A newly opened ‘whodunnit’ house on campus at Marjon is giving BA (Hons) Criminology and BSc (Hons) Forensic Criminology students a chance to get an authentic experience of collecting and analysing evidence from a ‘real life’ domestic crime scene.
The ‘crime scene’ house, which was officially opened recently by His Honour Judge Climie, provides the opportunity for course leader, Dr Lystra Hagley-Dickinson, and her team to set up different scenarios. These are then used by groups over a 2–3 week period to reconstruct and deconstruct the crime scene and prepare evidence to use in a mock court case.
Forensic Criminology students get a chance to collect human serology samples and process these in the laboratory in order to analyse human DNA, as well as unearthing bone samples in the back yard which can then be analysed to assess the gender, ethnicity, height and weight of the victim.
For Criminology students, the house is used to provide clues about the personality profile and traits of both the offender and victim, and to gather clues about routine behaviours and changes in these as part of the case evidence.
The ‘crime scene’ house is just one of the simulated environments available to students on both degree courses including a mock prison, police cell and moot court. Students are currently exposed to these utilising the actual magistrate and Coroner Court courts in Plymouth, both to observe actual sessions and to work in court when these are not in session.
Dr Lystra Hagley-Dickinson, Associate Professor of Law and Criminology comments, “This is a fantastic opportunity for students to get experience of working in an authentic crime scene environment over a period of time and to get a grasp of how quickly they need to eliminate information that isn’t relevant and focus in on what is important.
“It’s also a good way of putting all the skills they have learnt into action right through from evidence identification and collection to processing this and preparing for a court case. It’s an invaluable new asset for the department and highlights our approach to mixing theory with hands-on practice.”
Both the BA (Hons) Criminology course and the BSc (Hons) Forensic Criminology courses were launched in 2017, with the Criminology course focusing on psychological profiling and psychosocial pathologies to predict the behaviour of criminals. The Forensic Criminology course prepares students in how to apply science to crime scene investigation and use this within the criminal justice system, and other areas where forensic science skills are needed like accidents and disaster management and insurance investigations.
In 2018 a BSc in Criminology and Psychology will be added to the criminology programme portfolio and another criminology degree with cyber security
The teaching team is led by acclaimed Criminologist Dr Lystra Hagley-Dickinson, Associate Professor of Law and Criminology, whose fascination with studying social justice was sparked whilst working as a lawyer with clients on death row in Trinidad & Tobago. She has worked in prison probation, police prisons and other criminal justice related agencies, the European Union and the community and voluntary sectors and has chaired the British Society of Criminology.
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