Medicine Science and the Law Journal
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The journal aims to advance knowledge of forensic science and of forensic medicine vis publication of reviews, research articles, commentaries, and details of events. and has an international audience, keeping readers informed of developments and trends in the forensic sciences by reporting, discussing and debating current issues of importance in forensic practice.
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Medicine, Science and the Law: Volume 20 April 2020
The politics of austerity, imprisonment and ignorance: a case study of English prisons.
The editorial in the April edition by Nasrul Ismail, an academic in Public Health and Well-Being, provides a powerful argument that declining conditions of safety and decency in prisons are driven by political decision-making that contrasts significantly with acclaimed government vision.
Readability of statutory letters issued by Forensic Services in NHS Scotland.
This study from Lim and Bennett has looked at readability of letters shared with, or sent directly, to patients from Scottish Health Boards relating to the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, or as a result of processes associated with the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995. They revealed that, while there was no apparent difference between these two sources, there were significant differences in readability of documents from different Health Boards which, overall, was poor in between 10% and 60% of cases. They argue for the use of standardised templates and patient feedback on these.
Mastoid, middle ear and inner ear analysis in CT scan – a possible contribution for the identification of remains.
In skeletal remains, where temporal bones remain intact, there is an opportunity to use CT scans to describe the anatomical morphology and use it for identification. The authors (Rodrigues et al) asked four individuals, with skills ranging from a few hours training to over ten years’ experience in radiology, to independently identify the CT scan source of ten problem images from one hundred candidates and showed that experience was not important factor in identification success. The authors however highlight a number of caveats to the potential for forensic use of the comparison; in particular the comparability of ante-mortem CT examination with skeletonised remains, along with the likely unavailability of the former.
Sex estimation from the femur using discriminant function analysis in a Central Indian Population.
Anatomical variations in the femur bone have been extensively studied and often have focussed on between population characteristics. The authors (Chatterjee et al) wanted to create a population database that would help them assess the sex of skeletal remains if only a femur is presented. While male femurs are generally larger than those from females, the authors used discriminant analysis of fourteen osteometric measurements to identify the most important predictors, obtaining around a 75% to 80% accuracy in sex assignment from intact bones from this population group.
Evaluating the persistence of laundered semen stains on fabric using a forensic light source system, prostate-specific antigen Semiquant test and DNA recovery-profiling.
The ability to detect and profile sperm recovered from laundered garments has been studied in this study from Karadayi et al. They examined semen stains on polyester and cotton fabric post washing machine laundry using two different temperatures (30° or 60°) and three different washing powders, biological, non-biological, or non-biological with stain remover added. Detection of possible semen was negative or weak after a 60° wash, especially in polyester garments. DNA recovery from the stained areas was high and variable between the different washing powders but there are a number of caveats. They showed that detection of a stained deposit after laundering, essential to target an area likely to contain sperm, may be difficult and even more variable depending on when a garment is washed after deposition.
Facial-recognition algorithms: a literature review.
Biometric recognition, in particular recognition of an individual from facial images, has produced significant interest recently with its trialling in various jurisdictions worldwide. This article by Krishan et al, reviews the different software algorithms that are currently in use.
Cresswell considers the rise in section 136 (Removal etc of mentally disordered persons without a warrant; Mental Health Act 1983) use by police reported in Loughran’s 2018 publication (Med Sci Law 58> 268-274) and its possible cause. While acknowledging that more research is needed, he points to likely changes in policing attitudes over the last thirty years and the impact of austerity on mental health services provision. O’Donovan and colleagues in their article point out the importance of understanding airbag deployment forces when conducting autopsies in vehicle crashes. In the final viewpoint, Jakobsen et al describe how forensic medicine is practiced and organised in Denmark.