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Amanda Clack FRICS is today being inaugurated as the RICS President for 2016-17. Ms. Clack is a Partner at EY, and is Head of Infrastructure (Advisory), leading on infrastructure across government and the private sector.

Chartered surveyors spend a lot of their professional time helping clients who are involved in disputes. When problems escalate to formal tribunals, surveyors bring a range of expertise to bear. They act as advisers, expert witnesses, arbitrators, mediators and also as advocates.

The result of the referendum draws a line under the campaigns of the last few months. The British people have decided that the UK should leave the EU. There now follows a vote in Parliament, and a detailed negotiation for the UK’s exit.

by Christopher Sullivan, Partner, Malcolm Hollis Martin Burns RICS, Head of ADR Research and Development. 
It is a fact of life that disputes involving commercial and residential property will happen. When they do, the best thing parties to those disputes can hope for is quick resolution at minimum cost.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the United Nations have issued a call to organisations in the land, construction and real estate sectors, and those working with them, to take a leading role in responsible and sustainable business practices.

by Daphne Wassermann, CEng, FIMechE, MIMMM, MCIWM Technical Director, Cadogans

by Dr Hugh Koch, Chartered Psychologist and Director, Hugh Koch Associates LLP Katie Newns, Chartered Psychologist, Hugh Koch Associates LLP Richard Cosway, Chartered Psychologist, Hugh Koch Associates LLP

by James Rothman M.A. FMRS C.Stat. Dip MRS MAE ©

by David Cowan BSc, BArch, RIBA, Chief Executive, Cowan Architects

by James Spargo

Vedanta Hedging is the UK’s leading derivative expert witness service. We have acted in more than 420 legal disputes involving derivatives. These range from vanilla and structured interest rate derivatives, foreign exchange derivatives, commodity derivatives, credit derivatives, commercial mortgage backed securities and investment management.

Problems in expert evidence going beyond the rules. By Alec Samuels

by Emma Wilson - Prometheus Forensic Services

University of Leicester project to empower victims and support prosecutions in cases of sexual violence in conflict zones

Researchers from the University of Leicester have launched a new project to investigate alternative ways of collecting DNA evidence from victims of sexual violence in conflict zones and displaced communities, including refugee camps.

The project, which is led by Dr Lisa Smith from the University of Leicester’s Department of Criminology, will explore new methods for collecting forensic DNA
evidence in cases of sexual violence for use in regions where victims do not have access to medical facilities in order to provide victims with access to justice that may otherwise be unavailable.

The research is being launched before representatives from the UN and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan at the UN’s HeForShe’s First-Ever #GetFree Tour at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 29 September.

Dr Smith explained: “In regions experiencing armed conflict, it is well documented that sexual violence is used strategically by armed groups against communities, families, and individuals. Although the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is prohibited by international criminal law, these cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, often because of a lack of available evidence. Forensic examinations of victims are often not carried out due to a lack of access to medical facilities, lack of trained medical and police professionals, and safety and security concerns.

“I hope that this sort of research will help to raise awareness of the issue of sexual violence against vulnerable people in circumstances such as armed conflict and displaced communities, and encourage international organisations to seek innovative ways to use forensic science to give victims of sexual violence access to justice around the world.”

The first phase of the project, which is supported by the University Prospects Fund, involves researchers from the University of Leicester’s Departments of Criminology and Genetics collaborating with Thermo Fisher Scientific to test a variety of alternative DNA recovery techniques in order to determine their suitability for use on the ground in challenging circumstances, in order to overcome technical and cultural barriers which currently exist in remote regions.

The team will also be bidding for a large research grant in early 2016 which will enable them to conduct research ‘on the ground’ in various affecte regions worldwide.

The project will be highlighted amongst other Leicester research at the UN HeForShe event. Leicester has been chosen by the United Nations as an IMPACT champion to identify and test gender equality initiatives for the UN Women’s HeForShe 10x10x10 international campaign to get a billion boys and men involved in championing the rights of women. Ten university leaders worldwide – including Professor Paul Boyle, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester - will join 10 world leaders and 10 company chief executives to spearhead the campaign with game-changing action for gender equality.

Dr Smith said: “The HeForShe campaign aims to achieve gender equality, and sexual violence is just one of the ways that women, men, and children are
victimised around the world. The HeForShe campaign is led by UN Women, and part of their remit is the aim to end sexual violence against women and work towards peace and security for women and girls worldwide. This research project hopes to use forensic science to offer justice to victims of sexual violence and support the prosecutions of perpetrators around the world.”

The project will also examine wider areas in parallel to the DNA-related research, including aspects related to the interviewing of victims and witnesses. The interviewing of victims and witnesses is a crucial part of the investigation of sexual violence in these regions, but there is currently a lack of research on issues relating to interview practices in these regions, for example, how the use of language interpreters influences the interview setting.

Professor Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester’s Department of Genetics added: “The technology for DNA testing is powerful and robust, and in the UK, where we have a functional criminal justice system, we’re accustomed to its routine use supporting convictions for rape. We aim to be smart about how we apply it, so we can also make a real difference in the more dangerous and chaotic situations that exist in conflict zones.”

by Sue Carney, ConsultantForensic Scientist, Ethos Forensics

I will never forget the time a Solicitor said to me: "It's fingerprint evidence, of course we always accept it!". He had obviously never heard of Andrew Chiory or Shirley McKie or Brandon Mayfield (the list could go on!) … have you? 

We have learnt that it is vital for any evidence served to be examined. An Expert's duty is to the Court, to assist the Court with evidence within their expertise and be unbiased with the evidence they give. So, should we find we agree with another Expert, we will say so. However, we often find important facts have been ignored and have even found evidence to be completely wrong. We are not afraid to say that either!

• CCTV Evidence

What better evidence could you get than being able to see the offence happening and the person responsible? However, we are finding more frequently that the purported identifications of people from CCTV recordings are not as definitive as often alleged, and in some cases have been incorrect.

In one case in which the Defendant had been charged with a robbery on a bus, the Crown served a Police Officer's statement in which he identified the Offender seen in the CCTV footage as being the Defendant. Our Expert examined the original recording, found it to be of good quality and conducted a 'facial mapping' comparison between images of the Offender and photographs of the Defendant. Our Expert found that he could exclude the Defendant from being the Offender and the case was dropped.

In addition, it may not actually be possible to see specific actions take place, for example did a kick connect or multiple punches land on their target? CCTV footage is regularly 'over-interpreted' by those influenced by other information. Time-lapse video means that only a few images are recorded each second, for example only 6 images may have been recorded compared to 50 separate images per second for normal smooth motion. What is captured by those 6 images is chance and anything that happened in between is simply not recorded.

Furthermore, 'digital' does not necessarily mean better quality! Recordings are often compressed to help increase storage capacity, which usually reduces quality and can result in a 'blocky' image, obscuring fine detail and distorting shapes It can prove vital to have a report by an Expert who understands the limitations of CCTV recordings and states what can really be seen, so that the jury are not mislead.

• DNA Evidence

DNA is a chemical that is present in almost all of our body cells. It is the genetic material that governs the way we develop and determines our physical characteristics. We inherit half our DNA from our mother and half from our father.

For 14 years the 'SGM Plus' system was used by forensic laboratories for DNA testing. That method looked at 10 areas (or 'loci') on the DNA strand, plus the gender of the individual. At each of these loci there exist two lots of information (known as 'alleles' or 'components'), one inherited from each parent, meaning that a full SGM Plus DNA profile comprises 20 DNA components (i.e. 10 pairs), and an individual's gender identifier.

However, as more and more DNA profiles were added to the National DNA database, concern grew about the risk of finding two unrelated people with the same SGM Plus DNA profile. A new generation of DNA testing methods is therefore now in use that are known collectively as 'DNA17'. These more discriminating tests look at 16 areas on the DNA strand, plus a person's gender, meaning that a full 'DNA17' profile consists of 32 DNA components (i.e. 16 pairs) and gender, rather than the 20 components in an 'SGM Plus' profile.

We have therefore found ourselves in a crossover period, where there are thousands of DNA reference profiles from people on the National DNA Database that were produced using the SGM Plus method, whereas samples from crimes are now tested using a DNA17 system. This means that when a database 'hit' is obtained, the information from only a maximum of 10 loci (i.e. 20 components), plus gender, on a person's DNA profile is likely to have been matched to the DNA profile from the crime, from which there is potentially information from 16 loci (i.e. 32 components), plus the gender, available for comparison. There are therefore a potential 12 components from the crime sample that have not been compared with the person's DNA.

What if any of those 12 alleles do not match and the Defendant can be excluded from being the Offender?

It is therefore imperative that any DNA matches produced as a result of a DNA Database 'hit' are examined and, should it be found that the samples were profiled using systems that each look at a different number of loci on the DNA strand, new testing should be conducted using suitable methods to ensure all available evidence is considered.

Current DNA testing methods are also extremely sensitive and are able to obtain DNA profiles from tiny samples. It should always be borne in mind that whilst a full DNA profile may have been produced from a crime sample, the substance from which the profile was obtained may have been so small as to be invisible to the naked eye. For example, the 'DNA17' methods are thought to be able to produce a DNA profile from less than 10 skin cells, and it is estimated that a person sheds about 400,000 such cells a day! Methods of indirect deposition and secondary, and even tertiary, DNA transfer should not be forgotten!

Reporting methods have also evolved, with 'Streamlined Forensic Reports' (SFRs) often favoured by Police, especially when the evidence has been found as a result of a Database Hit. However, our Experts have discovered on several occasions that evidence produced in DNA SFRs has been wrong – alleged DNA matches with a supporting match probability have subsequently been found to actually be mixtures of DNA that are unsuitable for statistical evaluation!

• Crime Scene Examination and DNA Evidence

Quite often one type of evidence can have an impact on another. We were instructed in a case in which DNA obtained at a burglary scene was found to match the Defendant. The DNA had been swabbed from lip prints on the outside of a window that had been found by the Crime Scene Examiner when they powdered the crime scene looking for fingerprint evidence.

However, in an unusual set of circumstances, the Defendant had also been burgled and the same Police Crime Scene Examiner had attended the Defendant’s home to conduct an examination prior to attending the other burglary scene later that same day, and thus the question of contamination arose and our Crime Scene Examiner reviewed the evidence.

Based on information and questions raised by our Expert, the Crown’s Examiner admitted to Defence Counsel in a conference held at Court that he may have used the same fingerprint brush and powder at both crime scenes, and, because of research our Expert was aware of regarding the contamination of fingerprint brushes and powder with DNA, the Crown’s DNA Scientist confirmed that DNA could have been transferred via the fingerprint brush from the Defendant’s home to the other burglary scene. As a result, as the trial was about to start the Crown offered no evidence.

• Drugs Evidence

Police Forces have to take a practical view of forensic testing, especially with so many budget constraints. However, that can have a disastrous effect on evidence served.

In one case the Defendant had been charged with possession of cannabis with intent to supply and faced a 3 year prison sentence if convicted. The Police had
seized over 2kg of a bulky vegetable material that they suspected to be drugs, but in order to save costs they only submitted two very small samples of the
material for forensic testing, claiming they were representative samples of the whole seizure. Their forensic service provider reported that the samples were "cannabis, including leaf material and some flowering top material" and the Police subsequently valued the entire seized material at £20,000, based on it being marketable cannabis that could have been sold on the street in 2000 'deals' at £10 each.

However, the Defendant was adamant that the cannabis was "rubbish" and his Solicitor asked our Expert to examine the material that had been seized. He found that it was nearly all cannabis plant stalk and leaf with only tiny fragments of (the potent) flowering tops present, and many clay pebbles (plant growing material) mixed with it. The Police samples had in fact been unrepresentative of the bulk material which was unmarketable and in our Expert's opinion, discarded waste material from a cannabis factory (where the marketable flowering tops had been separated out).

Our Expert's report resulted in the Police agreeing with his evidence and the Defendant receiving a £150 fine for cannabis possession, instead of a jail term for
possession with intent to supply a significant quantity of cannabis.

• Fingerprint Evidence

Fingerprints are still the only accepted unique method of identification (even identical twins have different fingerprints) and such evidence is retrieved in many cases, for example the Metropolitan Police find and retrieve finger/palm marks from approximately a fifth of all crime scenes attended by their Crime Scene Examiners. However, Police Forces have their set ways in producing their evidence (especially with the introduction of 'Streamlined Forensic Reports') and very limited information is readily given.

Our fingerprint expert was asked to examine the evidence produced by the Police in relation to the armed robbery of a jewellers shop. Latex gloves had been left at the scene, which were retrieved by the Police and subjected to a fingerprint examination. A finger mark made by the Defendant was said by the Police to have been found on the inside of one of the gloves. The Defendant had a legitimate reason for touching the outside of the latex gloves but not for wearing them.

Our Expert advised Counsel that there was no proof in the evidence served by the Crown that the mark was definitely found on the inside of the glove, particularly as latex gloves are often removed in a manner that causes them to be turned inside out. On cross examination the Police could not confirm if the mark was found on the inside or outside of the glove and the Defendant was found not guilty.

It is therefore not always about whether or not the finger (or palm) mark identification is correct, there are often many other important factors that can be brought to light.

• Toxicology

Toxicology evidence can arise in many different cases, including driving related matters, assaults, sex offences and murders, and can be thought of as difficult to dispute. Techniques used to analyse blood and urine samples are specific enough that there are rarely incidences where false positive results are obtained.

It is, however, important to view the results alongside all evidence in the case. Morphine is, for example, commonly used as a pain killer and if someone has been injured morphine may have been administered to them after an incident occurred. Its presence in the blood may not therefore show that an individual was under the effect of the drug at the time of the offence.

It is also important to consider the interaction that may take place between different drugs, which can result in an enhanced effect. Individual concentrations of each drug may not themselves cause significant effects, but if a number of drugs with similar effects are taken in combination, or if drugs are taken with alcohol, this may increase their effect on an individual. The medical history of a person can also prove important when interpreting toxicological findings as certain medical conditions can alter how an individual responds to a drug.

Drugs can also undergo post mortem re-distribution, so in the case of fatalities, the level detected after death may not be representative of the level in the blood at the time of death. Interpretation of post mortem levels therefore needs to take into account the time between death and sampling, the preservatives used and the temperature at which samples have been stored. Comparison of levels in different tissue samples, such as blood, stomach contents and vitreous humour can assist with assessing the extent of post mortem re-distribution that has taken place.

An examination of toxicology evidence can therefore be of paramount importance to many cases, as it may explain an individual's behaviour and reactions to
circumstances they faced, or actually show they were not under the effect of a drug at the time of the incident.

Instructing Experts

In the interests of justice, instructing an independent expert to examine evidence is vital. Evidence might not be as absolute as it seems, only limited information may have been disclosed in a report or the evidence could even be wrong. Forensic evidence should be fairly presented, to enable the Court to consider all relevant information and ensure they are not mislead by incomplete, or even incorrect, evidence. 

Mrs. Nikki Smith MCSFS
Director, Case Manager & Fingerprint Expert
BioMark Forensics Ltd.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: www.forensic-science.uk.net
© BioMark Forensics Ltd. 2016

by Mr Benedict Spencer
Mr Spencer has owned and run Spencer Research Limited providing forensic science services to defence and prosecution specialising in Cell Site Analysis.