Forensic Science and Criminal Justice

Module code: CR3013

Module co-ordinator: Dr Lisa Smith

Over the past two decades the criminal justice system has been dramatically affected by technological advances in scientific contributions to the law. Forensic science has also found its way into popular fiction, and forms the basis for some of the most popular television shows in the world.

In this module we will review the historical context of science and law, and in particular the rapid development of forensic science in the 1990s. We will consider these scientific developments in the context of the legal system, including how the criminal courts react to these new technologies. You will explore some of the common forensic techniques, and will think critically about the underlying principles of physical evidence and how it contributes to police investigations.

You will also explore some of the ethical and legal issues associated with forensic science practice, such as ethical implications of DNA databases, admissibility of evidence and ‘junk’ science, and miscarriages of justice.

Topics covered

  • Common forensic science techniques: identifying individuals, comparing materials, and reconstructing events
  • Interpreting physical evidence
  • Forensic science in the media
  • Forensic science in the courtroom
  • Forensic science in practice (overview of real case studies)
  • Contemporary debates in forensic science practice
  • The future of forensic science


  • 9 two-hour lectures
  • 8 one-hour seminars


  • Essay, 4,000 words (100%)