Research Activities

SIPR Small Grants - 2019 Awards

 
Three Awards, totalling £22,800, were made in April 2019:

  • Dr Lynne Kelly, University of Dundee & Dr Sharon Jackson, GCU
    Two MSc studentships to evaluate a new Joint Investigative Interviewing Training (JIIT) programme

  • Dr Alex McIntyre, Edinburgh Napier University
    Formal Evaluation of Evolutionary Facial Composite Systems
  • Dr Penny Haddrill & James Govan, University of Strathclyde 
    Development of a kit for the collection of human DNA evidence in wildlife crime cases in Scotland  

See below for further details on the Call, Review Process, and a Summary of each of these projects

ADDRESSING THE FUTURE RESEARCH CHALLENGES IN FORENSICS

The Forensic 2026 Strategy is an ambitious and diverse strategy developed by the Scottish Police Authority to align with the Scottish Government’s Justice Outcomes and the strategic aims of Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. With an overarching vision of scientific excellence for safer communities, the Strategy seeks to build on current strengths, driving greater value from the unique Crime Scene to Court model and to further grow scientific excellence to continue to prevent, detect and investigate crime.

This Strategy provided the focus for a "sandpit event" that was organised by the Evidence & Investigation Network under the leadership of Dr Penny Woolnough, Abertay University, and held on 11th September 2018, and for this Collaborative Project funding call that was attached to it. 

Three main themes for the day were identified through dialogue with practitioners involved in the Policing 2026 and Forensic Science 2026 strategies:

  1. Regulation and legislation of forensic sciences
  2. Evidence capture and communication
  3. Delivering forensic science at source

See here for further details on the Sandpit and the Funding Call.


ELIGIBILITY AND THE REVIEW PROCESS 

Members of SIPR based at the 14 Universities in Scotland that make up the Collaboration were eligible to apply to this competition and applicants could be from the university sector, Police Scotland, or the Scottish Police Authority. Applications were eligible from single individuals/institutions or collaborative ventures involving more than one university and/or a partnership between the academic community and police service. 

An in-exhaustive list of the kinds of thing that could be supported through these grants included:

A systematic review of evidence on a given topic and a process for promoting its use   •  Series of workshops designed to disseminate existing research and/or forge links between different partners  •  Practitioner fellowships and/or support for internships across agencies  •  Small-scale collaborative research projects  • Scoping work designed as a precursor to a larger external funding bid or collaborative research studentship application • Larger pieces of new research and evaluation tailored to the Call.

Strong evidence of collaboration (across disciplines or Universities, and/or involving police or partners) was expected.

Review process: All applications were firstly reviewed by members of the Evidence & Investigation Network Steering Group, and then by the SIPR Executive Committee , both of which included senior academic and practitioner representatives.  To ensure an open and fair process, academic reviewers were not allowed to comment on any bids from their own institution, and practitioners could not comment on any projects in which they were personally involved.

In assessing proposals,  the following were taken into account : 

  • Evidence that the proposed project was demand-driven, with strong evidence of Practitioner support and aligned with the research priorities identified in the Addressing the Future Research Challenges in Forensics sandpit;
  • Potential for delivering impact and the legacy of the project in terms of influencing future policy and practice;
  • The quality of the proposed collaboration between HEIs and Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and/or other relevant partner organisations;
  • Overall value for money, including a cost-effective and credible work plan and a robust approach to evaluation.


PROJECT SUMMARIES


Two MSc studentships to evaluate a new Joint Investigative Interviewing Training (JIIT) programme

Police Scotland and Social Work Scotland are working in partnership with the Scottish Government to take forward recommendations of the Evidence and Procedure Review (2015) to improve the quality and consistency of Joint Investigative Interviews (JIIs) of children who may have been abused or assaulted in order for their evidence to be presented in court. The Evidence and Procedure Review Report recommended that where appropriate, the evidence in chief and subsequent cross-examination of child and vulnerable adult witnesses should be captured as early as possible in advance of any trial in a pre-recorded format that should remove any need for the child or vulnerable adult witness to attend court. Current approaches to conducting JIIs are inadequate as the quality of the evidence in chief that is obtained from children is not of the quality required for court proceedings (Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, 2017). It is suggested that this deterioration in the quality of evidence is due to poor quality of the interview and issues with the technology used.

One of the key recommendations from this project is for Police Scotland and Social Work Scotland to create a new model for Joint Investigative Interviewing of children and develop a new Joint Investigative Interviewing Training (JIIT) programme. This training will be aimed at professionals who will be interviewing children in order to provide robust evidence in any subsequent court proceedings. This new training will be designed to address the concerns outlined above. The project also strongly suggested that a robust evaluation of the project would be vital to ensure that the training provided meets its objectives and that the new process of interviewing children is considered to be of sufficient quality to satisfy both the needs of the Courts while also ensuring that child victims and their families have greater confidence in the system.

This proposal is requesting funding to provide the evaluation of the current information gleaned from such interviews and thereafter a comparison of information gleaned from interviews following adherence to the new training methodologies adopted by offering two fully funded studentships. It is anticipated that the key areas of inquiry for this evaluation is likely to be in relation to the issues raised in the Evidence and Procedure Review Report, in particular, better understanding how JII’s impact upon court outcomes, including the impact of technology and victim experience.


This proposal seeks funding for two fully funded masters studentships to undertake an initial evaluation of current practice and then re-evaluate outcomes following successful completion of the new JIIT training that is being developed by Police Scotland and Social Work Scotland. It is anticipated that these studentships will be attractive to suitably qualified police or social work professionals who have an interest in this area of work and who are keen to enhance their own learning and contribute to the existing knowledge base in this area of work. It is expected that the findings from this evaluation will be used to inform a larger study that will take forward the findings from this initial review of the JIIT training programme.



 

Formal Evaluation of Evolutionary Facial Composite Systems

Facial composites provide a unique means of enabling witnesses to convey appearance of a perpetrator and can facilitate generation of viable information.  There are the two viable Evolutionary composite systems available to UK police, but they have not been formally evaluated and allocation of tender by UK police services is based upon faulty and incomplete evidence.   Evolutionary composite systems reportedly perform well against older systems but there is no formal comparison of the evolutionary software.  We propose an independent evaluation of E-Fit 6 and EvoFIT on behalf of SPA. 

Evolutionary composite systems employ similar technology but different user interfaces and image datasets.  This project will answer the following questions:

  1. Do the evolutionary composite systems produce good likenesses?
  2. Do evolutionary composite systems generate reliable identifications?
  3. Can composites be accurately matched to target images?
  4. Which image dataset produces the most effective composite images?
  5. To what extent does operator engagement determine composite quality?
  6. How can system interface be developed to improve engagement and composite efficacy?

SPA will renew tender for facial composite software in June 2020: this project will provide evidence of facial composite efficacy and accountability for resource allocation and procurement. 



 

Development of a kit for the collection of human DNA evidence in wildlife crime cases in Scotland 

Wildlife crime is a high priority for the Scottish Government, yet prosecution and conviction rates remain low for these types of crime. This results in part from the fact that many of these crimes occur in remote locations, meaning that Police Scotland face challenges in the gathering of sufficient evidence for the identification and prosecution of perpetrators. It has been shown that the perpetrator’s DNA can be recovered from the carcasses of poached deer and from baits, traps and carcasses in raptor persecution cases, but this technology has rarely been used in the investigation of these types of crime. We will develop a kit to collect human DNA from wildlife crime scenes, demonstrate that it can be effectively used to recover DNA of suitable quality and quantity to produce reportable profiles in the laboratory and natural environment, and develop a training programme to instruct individuals in the use of the kits. This will facilitate the capture of evidence at the scene of wildlife crimes, increasing the utilisation of forensic science at source for these cases, with the ultimate aim of increasing rates of prosecution and conviction of individuals who perpetrate crime against animals in Scotland.