301FIS Contemporary Issues in Forensic Investigation ”Major investigations may contain manycomplexes but crucial investigative aspects and issues. Critically analyse someof these differing facets and the impact they may have upon an investigation.” Introduction: It’s fundamentally essential for any investigatorto understand the importance of a wide range of processes that are present in amajor investigation.
The Senior Investigating Officer plays a fundamental rolein an investigation leading and directing all aspects of the investigationmaking strategic decisions with regards to the direction of enquiries. Inaddition, these decisions may be based and influenced by ethical issues thatmay arise ultimately directing the investigators’ understanding and ultimatelyaffecting the decisions made regarding the case. There are many areas ofcomplexity that can impact and influence a major police investigation.Evidently, SIOs need to be aware of developing contemporary issues that canaffect and impact an investigation. There are consistent principles that an SIOshould follow in order to provide an effective investigation furthermore theyneed to be greatly aware of the developing investigation and consider each caseof the wide range factors and information that are presented in them. An SIO essentiallyneeds to effectively manage the opportunities and challenges which may bepresented in the investigation. There are many challenges within a mass ofcases that illustrate these areas of complexities, showing the degree of the intricacyand how they are able to impact an investigation as a result.
The investigative process: A crucialaspect of the investigation is the investigative process requires the SIO toefficiently and effect??ivy manage the initial response to the investigation. Theresponse process begins with an initial crime scene assessment where potentialevidence is gathered and identified and then evaluated in regarding itsrelevance to case (Smith andFlanagan, 2000). Within in the initial crime scene assessment stagethere are many complex’s and developments that can arise from sourcingpotential evidence. The SIO of theinvestigation needs to have the aptitude and capability to understandinformation from the scene. Bentham memorably stated that ” The field of evidence isthe field of knowledge” (Bentham and Bowring,1843), what this implies that our existing knowledge makes sense ofevidence which then facilitates its operative state for a legal purpose. Thisstage is crucial for any investigation as it foundation building blocks for anyinvestigation.
Every single crime that is committed is differentiated from oneanother and no two are the same as every crime is different and has a uniquecollection and distribution of evidence. The integrity of evidenceplays a fundamental aspect of the investigation.it is understood now thatcriminal investigation is usually the only chance to identify and collect thematerial that’s required by courts to hear a case. Physical material enablesinvestigators to narrow down the possibilities and construct a hypothesis ofwhat has occurred. If material is not identified during an investigation, it isimprobable that it can later be recuperated.
If an investigator fails to identifyand detect material during the investigation phase it is doubtful that thesematerials will be available later on as a result it may cause difficultieslater on in the case as courts may find it problematic to assess the quality ofmaterial presented later on (Stelfox,2009).. The investigators need to tryto establish what has occurred, while at the same time preserving and managingthe scene and ensuring that the correct individuals have been alerted e.g. Scenesof crime officer (SOCO) and a pathologist (Smithand Flanagan, 2000).
Making sure that all protocols are beingfollowed throughout, especially when concerning in Identification and preservation of evidence in orderto maintain its integrity. Assimilatingrelevant information at this stage is imperative, the SIO can begin to attemptbuild a picture, forming various hypotheses testing each one and choosing whichhypothesis is most likely to have occurred and looking at its justifications asto why. The hypothesis formulated at this stage of the investigation must be capableof being turned into appropriate lines of enquiry, recognising whichinformation may act as a source of potential evidence and forming the ‘story’to case. It is the story that is presented, the position can be justified and theultimate probanda proved.
Maguire and Norris suggested in 1992 that policeinvestigations were conducted and characterized by case construction ratherthan truth finding. Cases were then constructed based on the hypothesis thatwere formed as soon as an individual was suspected. The investigation proceedingsthen soon focused on information that will support that suspicion rather than acontinuing the search focused on what really occurred (Maguire and Norris, 1992). As a result, there have been severalcases that consequently lead to miscarriages of justice due to investigators precipitousdecisions making. A study was conducted in 1992 by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice from the research conducted themost occurring type of error in crime investigation was that of decisionsmaking within the investigations (Irving and Dunnighan, 1993). In the LesleyMolseed cases is a great example of miscarriage of justice due to the descionsmade at the beginning of the investigation.
Stefan Kiszko who was an intellectuallydisabled man was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Lesley Molseed andserved 16 years prison sentence. West Yorkshire Police immediately framed thatKiszko fitted their profile of the kind of individual liable to have murderedLesley Molseed despite the fact that he had never been persecuted by the law.In addition, he had the mental and emotional age of 12 and had no social lifebeyond his mother (BBC NEWS, 2007).
Consequently, due to the hypothesis made on the based on three young girlsreported that he indecently exposed himself just days before Lesley wasmurdered due to this information the police became doubtful of Kiszko’s uniquelifestyle. Furthermore, Kiszko had a strange hobby of writing down registrationnumbers of cars that infuriated him coincidently he had written down the numberof a car later discovered in close proximate to the crime scene. West YorkshirePolice pursued evidence that would incriminate him as they convinced that hewas the prime and only suspect while ignoring other potential leads that mighthave resulted in a different outcome to the investigation. This contributed tohis wrongful conviction, this particular case is a great illustration of a casebeing conducted and characterized by case construction rather than truthfinding. Hypothesis that are formed are crucial for the development of theinvestigation which can change the direction of the case altogether.
The investigativeprocess is flawed as it to opaque due to the fact the investigators developtheir options and bias as the case develops over time. During the initialcrime scene assessment stage the materials that are obtained help interpret, shape andconstruct the case. If sufficient information has been gathered then theverdict is set in stone however if the fundamental evidence isn’t presented intime can be disastrous for the defending party. There are many factors that cancontribute the conviction of an innocent individual which include confirmatorybias in police conducting the investigation, false confessions due to investigatorsapplying huge amount of pressure on the individual for a confession, dishonestreports/witnesses statement made, non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence, cognitivebiases and prejudices of juries and also finally the media input in theinvestigation which helps form the decisions made by juries. All of these errorswere present in the Lesley Molseed cases. Evidencewas suppressed in Kiszko’s favour wrongly convicting him of murder as he wasseen as unusual individual who was a social misfit that suffered from minorbehavioural abnormalities. Police applied pressure for a confession which waslater understood that pleaded guilty under duress. The role of the media: Over the past decade the mass media has become animportant aspect in major criminal investigations.
Investigators encouragepublicity and exposure for on-going case in order to support and assist themwith acquiring more knowledge. A result it could be a crucial part of theinvestigation weather that is identifying an individual or help them comprehendhow the crime occurred, investigators strategically utilise the media to theiradvantage. TheSIO of the investigation needs tohave the aptitude and capability to efficiently, ensurethat media strategy for the investigation is robust enough to ensure that theyremain in charge of press releases and that they maintain ownership andcontrol. Investigators acknowledge the power of the media asa result utilised the power it holds. Most investigators view the media as amixed blessing (Stelfox, 2009).The relationship between the police and the media is “an enduring, if not ecstatically happy, marriage” as Sir Robertmark the commissioner of the metropolitan police stated in 1971.
Most mediaoutlets are just interested acquiring material to provide information that isperceived as worthy news. That modern news is influenced by entertainmentindustry and that they are driven by visualising deviance as “Deviance is the defining characteristic ofwhat journalists regard as newsworthy” (Ericson et al., 1987). Ericson and his collagesconducting the study on visualising deviance, stated that the high proportionof news that is portrayed about deviance and control. The media portrays a distortedimage of crime through their selection of certain stories which are dedicatedto deviance. Murder cases especially those that containsuspicious death remain the most common crime that is portrayed in media andhighly likely to attract intense media and public interest. Violent acts willstrong visual graphical impact are highly likely to tract the media interest. Correspondingly,the trends in the media imply a progressively threatening image of crime innews stories.
This is compounded by the more negative and destructiverepresentations of the police (Mason,2003). In most major criminal investigations, crediblematerial is accumulated at an in the initial crime scene assessment stage,which later on provides a clear focus for the line enquiries of theinvestigation. Evidently cases that accumulate relevant materials in the earlystages are distinguished relatively quickly. Only a minority of investigationsare complex when materials aren’t composed in the early stages. Then nextinitial stage for the investigation is to use the media as an investigativetool and release information, frequently this is last possibility when allother inquiries have been exhausted. Using the media is often an advantage wheninvestigator have limited information initially at the early stage whereinvestigators release information in order for the investigation to progress. Inthe James Bulger case 1993,investigators asked the public for assistance in identifying thetwo young boys and releasedCCTV footage, exhibiting James being led away by two young boys.
Emphasis wasplaced on James last movements and enhanced the grainy footage. Informationfrom the public begins to flood in and less than a week of James disappearance,crucial information was given which led to the identification of 10 year olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. This caseillustrated the advantages of using the media when investigators have limitedinformation. However, there is no assurance that a story will bereported in ways that has a positive impact to the investigation. There havebeen incidents where a story has been reported in an uncooperative anddisobliging manner regarding the investigation.
Simply due to the fact that it constructsa better story and is news worthy or isn’t reported at all because itsconsidered as ordinary and mundane. There is a danger when realisinginformation to the media as the case may be sensualised in ways that ultimatelymisconstrue the level of threat and the investigation. The Stephan Lawrence case is a great example howthe role of the media impacted the investigation.
The media highlighted manycomplexities within the case and issues within the metropolitan police at thetime of the investigation. The case caused widespread controversy and becameone of the highest profile racial killings in UK history, evidently changing attitudeson racism and the police, as well as the legal landscape and police practiceall together. The media highlighted the issues of racism, professionalincompetence, and institutional racism that was evident in the investigation. Themedia’s coverage of the Stephen Lawrence case was positive impact to theinvestigation which allowed issue of race to be investigated. Stephan Lawrencewas an 18-year-old black man who was murdered in a racially motivatedunprovoked attack while he waited for a bus in 1993.
The Daily Mail accused and branded five white menof the murder on its front page in 1997 which caused controversy, as it was an uncommonpractice in journalistic reporting to accuse individuals of murder after thecourt has failed to do so. This act by the paper violated the journalisticethics however this was an advantage to investigation as it launched a campaignfor justice ever since the paper published the article. The article received attentionof the country which applied pressure on the investigators uncover more evidencewhich lead to a full trial and the conviction of the suspected killers. Investigatorsmay use media strategies to acquire more information from the general public inorder to advance their investigation. Strategies such as press confesses, reconstruction,appeals and publication of images to attract publicity on the investigation andmaintain the story in medias eye. In many missing children cases media coverageis a vital tool for the progression of the case. In the Sarah Payne case mediaappeals and reconstructions were used in efforts to help encourage possible witnessesto come forward with any information.
Police receive 270 calls following aCrimewatch appeal on BBC as well as receiving 20,000 calls following a publicationof an e-fit image of a man that investigators still wanted in for questioning (BBC NEWS, 2001). Eventuallylead to conviction of a convicted sex offender Roy Whiting. Julie Dart and StephanieSlater case is another great example where it exemplifies the advantages of investigatorspublishing information and secured a conviction. In January 1992 estate agent StephanieSlater was kidnapped and hidden in a coffin for eight days by a man posingas a house buyer.
Crimewatch TV appeal broadcasted a voice recording of thekidnapper, the BBC received a call from the kidnapper ex-wife confirming his identityas Michael Sams (BBC NEWS, 2017). After his arrest, forensicevidence linked him to the kidnap and murdered teenage prostitute Julie Dart. Toconclude all these cases, illustrate the power and advantage that the mediaholds in providing facts for successful just case. Despite this the media interest has grown inserious crime investigations, so has public criticism of some investigators.There have been strong criticisms of investigators in high profile cases on howthey may have conducted and structured a case. Investigators perceivethemselves as the subject of criticism as Sir Robert stated in 1974 “Withoutdoubt the most abused, the most unfairly criticised and the most silentminority in this country (Chibnall,1979)”. SIO can’t afford to make any mistakes and need to be able toefficiently manage the investigative process effectively also account anawareness of a number of issues or complexities that may arise during theinvestigation. Additionally, investigations must fundamentally be investigatedto a high standard in accordance with national guidelines (ACPO, 2006).
The question is whether the media is an appropriatetool for major investigation. In the Laissez-Faire model, it states that themedia is driven by demand economic with an emphasis on sensationalising andcovering stories to meet the public demands. Though, it it’s safe to state thatpolice and the media have a complicated and complex relationship and need towork together in order to achieve their objectives, as both to work together anddepend on each other for information; that being the media creating stories andinvestigators gaining additional information that was intended from realisinginformation to the public. However, there is a risk when involving the media can’tcontrol the public opinion nor the media which in many murder cases sparksintense attention and pressure promoting a media frenzy and jeopardising thecase as result. Which evidently can lead to the sensualisation of case to helpthe dramatization for the general public. In conclusions is seems that themedia hold primitive hold against the investigation. SIO must have effectivecommunication and implement a media and internal communication strategy. Finance and its impact: Thefinancing of investigation is one of the main aspects that SIO needs to considerwhen conducting cases.
Major investigations can acquire large amount of moneywhen conducting them. There are 45 police forces in the United Kingdom, 39 inEngland, 4 in Wales, and single forces each covering Scotland and NorthernIreland. In England and wales they receive their main source of income in theform of central government grant which is made available through the annual HomeOffice Police Grant Report (Houseof Commons Library, 2016). Each force is able to increase fundsthrough council tax bills. Oneof the main responsibilities of an SIO is being able manage a range of humanresources that are request for a single investigation. The range of human recoursesinclude specialists such as crime scene examiners, pathologists, forensicscientist, forensic submissions officers, analysts, intelligence officers, pressofficers, FLOs, covert resources and experts in various fields (ACPO, 2006). Overthe recent years there have been major policing funding cuts which resulted inless resources available and as a result the number of officers have declinedsince the cuts were made.
Evidently this will impact Scotland Yard being unableto provide some services as they will face financial pressures as figures willdrop by 2020. The Metropolitan police are the largest force in the UK are goingto discontinue investigating lower level crimes such as burglaries, thefts and someassaults. This is as a result of pressures on their resources as its notpractical for investigators accumulate a substantial amount of time ininvestigating these crimes where the extent of damage or the item that is stolenunder £50, or the victim is not willing to support a prosecution (Rawlinson, 2017). The deputy assistant commissioner MarkSimmons stated that that they must prioritise the recourses that are availableto them so that they are able to cope with the demand, henceforth for officers areable to be right place at the right time to help the public (Rawlinson, 2017).
Highprofile cases that have a large media coverage require an extensive amount oftime, money and resources dedicated to investigation. The Shannon Matthews caseis a great illustration on the differing investigative aspects that can affectan investigation. Aspects such as the media coverage and investigators were eagerto harness media interest in order to elicit the help gain information on whathappened (NPIA, 2009). Dueto the absence of information more than 300 police officers were involved andthe operation, more than 800 CCTV tapes and computer hard drives were examined,all available police dog handlers, firearms officers, special constables and rescueworkers were involved consequently costing the West Yorkshire Police £3.
2million (BBC NEWS, 2008).