Key Dates in British Forensic Science

287 – 212 BC – Forensic science is said to have begun with Archimedes around this time

1784 – Edward Culshaw was murdered in Lancaster and this well documented case used very basic forensic to aid in the investigation

1805 – In England the bureau of criminal statistics was set up and this was used to collate information about crimes that had been committed

1835 – Henry Goddard, who was one of London’s original Bow Street Runners, was involved in a case were bullet comparison was used for the first time to catch a murderer

19th and early 20th century – Prevalent punishment and prison reforms were taking place

1794 – 1846 – James Marsh, an English pharmacist, released information that the had developed, in 1836, about a way he had found which allowed for processing arsenic from boy tissue

1843 – M’Naghten/McNaughton Rules were created which allowed for establishing if at the time of a crime being committed, insanity is the cause of an individuals behaviour

1854 – Maddox, who was an English doctor, developed ‘dry plate photography’ which was useful for photographing prison inmates

1856 – Sir William Herschel, who was a British officer but based in India, began to use thumb-prints on documents as a signature

1901 – The Galton-Henry system of fingerprint classification became the official system of fingerprinting to be used at Scotland Yard

1851 – 1931 – Sir Edward R. Henry was an English police officer who then went on to become the chief commissioner of Scotland Yard

1901 – Sir Edward R. Henry then went on to improve the previous fingerprint classification system and his way is still used over the world

1930 – Sir James Mackenzie, an English heart specialist, created the ink polygrpah

1935 – The Metropolitan police laboratory was fully established and available for use

1950 – Alec Jeffreys developed the first DNA fingerprinting and profiling techniques

1960 – In this year voiceprints began to be used in criminal and forensic investigations

1991 – The United Kingdom’s forensic science service is opened in London

2007 – Footwear Intelligence Technology (FIT) was brought into use in Britain

2008 – Leicester University’s Forensic Research Centre introduced a new method of being able to take fingerprints from a crime scene

Book Review: Ultimate Hard Bastards

Ultimate Hard Bastards is the first book I have read since completing my degree. It’s published by John Blake publishing and written by Kate Kray, wife of the infamous Ronnie Kray. The book is a compilation of interviews, conducted by Kate herself, with a variety of some of Britain’s ‘hard bastards.’ When Kate’s husband, Ronnie, was sent to Broadmoor prison she kept a copy of his address book which resulted in the majority of contacts for her future book. Each interview is presented in the same way with a brief summary and then the interview questions, each the same for each individual. Kate asks questions such as is prison a deterent?, what would have deterred you from a life of crime?, toughest moment? and what makes a tough guy?

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It is interesting to hear the thoughts, stories and opinions of some of the familiar, and some not as familiar, ‘faces’ of Britain’s ‘hard men.’ One thing I particularly liked about the layout of the book was that the same questions were put to each individual Kate spoke with, allowing for a comparison as such between their ideas. For instance one thing which was extremely prevalent was the opinion of at least three quarters of the guys featured in the book that capital punishment should be brought back for those who commit offences such as rape or offences towards children. The book also dips into the background of each individual before commencing with the interview questions.

The 497 pages in the book were quick and easy to read and as it is broken down into each of the individuals featured in the book. It is a good book for someone who doesn’t have a great deal of time to read as if I had a spare 20 minutes I would read a couple of sections and it was very easy to put down and pick up again as there is no ‘plot’ as such to keep track of. It is a book based on opinion rather than fact which also contributes to it being a light read.

As many of these books tend to be it can be rather over dramatic in places and, at times, it can feel as though you are reading a fiction book and although I certainly wouldn’t say it is a must read it was enjoyable.

Drastic drop in prison officer numbers in North East prisons

Being a mentor for male offenders upon release from a North East prison I take an active interest in what is going on (or isn’t!) in our prison system. Recently some shocking statistics have been released about the reduction in prison officers across North East prisons. It is suggested that this decrease is due to staff from the North being sent to cover shortages in prisons in the South. These shortages are worrying considering the current state of our prison system, including the rising documentation of assaults on prison officers, prisoner on prisoner attacks and the very recent article published by the Guardian discussing the figures surrounding suicides in prison – http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/17/-sp-inmate-suicide-figures-reveal-human-toll-prison-crisis
Some of the current statistics for North East prisons are:

Durham
Previously 311, currently 160

Deerbolt
Previously 178, currently 120

Holme House
Previously 336, currently 200

Frankland
Previously 604, currently 420

Low Newton
Previously 141, currently 100

It proves difficult, possibly unsurprisingly, to find any government acknowledgement of the rising issues and the general consensus seems to be that our prison system is fit for purpose. For further information regarding these statistics and the prison system as a whole visit, http://www.howardleague.org/

DD307 Exam

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As I mentioned, on the 8th October 2014 I had the final exam for my degree which was the exam for DD307 Social Psychology: critical perspectives on self and others. In comparison to the TMA questions and the course material I was pleasantly surprised by the questions which came up in the exam. There were four blocks, each with a choice of two questions, and you had to select 1 question from 3 different blocks to answer. Below are the three questions I opted for:

Critically evaluate the contribution of quantitative methods to our understanding
of attitudes.

Compare and contrast cognitive social and discursive psychological approaches
to the study of groups and crowds.

Compare and contrast cognitive social and discursive psychological approaches
to the study of groups and crowds.

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I don’t feel as though it was my strongest exam but I answered all three questions to the best of my ability and whatever the results, which are out on 5th December, I most definitely couldn’t have put in any more preparation and revision than I did.

For anyone who reads this post in the future or who will be completing DD307 as part of their degree pathway I strongly recommend revising much earlier than you are timetabled. I also recommended getting to grips with the four perspectives covered along with the interrogative themes as early as possible and really focus on them throughout the entire module as it seems to be a major focus and way to pick up marks!

I will do an update post when I receive my results so until then fingers crossed!

Give me more!

I have done a similar post before asking if anyone had any blog recommendations but I thought I would share websites – criminology related of course – that I regularly read or check for updates. I love reading books and would choose paper based material over web based any day but I do appreciate the way in which you can get instant updates online and can quickly search for thousands of areas of interest. I do however wish there were more informal criminology, psychology, substance misuse etc blogs and websites which were chatty and easy and quick to read on the go so I am always on the hunt for new sites! I also love watching related videos and documentaries so have included some sites I check for those too!

Without further ado here are some of the sites I enjoy or have found useful in the past;

The Lucifer Effect

http://www.lucifereffect.com/

The British Journal of Criminology

http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/

Just One More Ten Pence Piece

http://www.tenpencepiece.net/blog/

Drink Aware

http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/about-us

The Howard League

http://www.howardleague.org/

Criminology and Criminal Justice

http://www.routledge.com/criminology/

New Bridge

http://www.newbridgefoundation.org.uk/

The Mental Elf

http://www.thementalelf.net/

TED Talks

http://www.ted.com/talks/browse

Top Documentary Films

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/

Insidetime

http://www.insidetime.co.uk/

Mental Health Cop

http://mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com/

UK Criminal Law Blog

http://ukcriminallawblog.com/

British Society of Criminology

http://britsoccrim.org/new/index.php

(I also check BBC news on a regular basis along with my local news) I would love to hear your recommendations!

Four years

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Well for the past four years I have been working towards an honours degree in Criminology and Psychological studies and on Wednesday 8th October 2014 at 1pm I put my pen down after the final exam. Four years of work now over! It’s a strange feeling and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet, I just feel as though I am having a break between modules. I have been having some much needed down time since then but I am looking forward to getting stuck back into blogging!
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Revision Tip 1

I know for many it’s coming up to the start of the academic year but for those who are, like myself, part of the Open University or another institution who may have exams at differing times I thought it might be helpful to share some ways in which I revise. More so than essay writing I am always keen to hear how other people retain vital exam information as it’s something I find quite unpredictable and I don’t seem to be as consistent as with essay writing. For example, in a previous Open University module, the exam was made up of three essay questions each with the same weighting and I managed to obtain a mark in the 90’s for one part but then much lower marks for the other two.

So with my (hopefully) final undergraduate exam now next month I thought I would share, over a few posts, a couple of ways I revise. I would love to hear in the comments how you best revise.

Flash Cards

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Something I have done the whole way throughout my degree is create flash cards. I find these brilliant for remembering definitions, dates etc. and smaller chunks of information. For myself they don’t work if I overload them and try and use them to condense a whole topic or chapter but they are great as small prompts. However I know of people who use them to summarise whole books and it works for them! I *try* and create these as I go throughout the module texts and then use them on a regular basis to recap what I have already gone through. This does mean that by the time revision has come around many may seem quite simple as my knowledge around the topic has been built up but the great thing about hand writing flash cards is you can always add to them. Unfortunately for DD307 I have failed to do this and only really going back through them now!

You can create flash cards on the computer, scrap paper or whatever takes your fancy but I like the thick, large index cards and some good old sharpies!

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Remember to let me know your revision tips!
Sophie

Motivation

No matter how much you love your subject or degree I think pretty much everyone goes through periods, be it days, weeks or more, where they really struggle with a lack of motivation. I have found it hard to keep motivated throughout the final module of my degree, DD307 Social psychology: critical perspectives on self and others. This is mainly due to me not feeling as though I can fully engage with the module material for a number of reasons. I have also found that I enjoy many of the topics covered but unfortunately these don’t seem to be reflected in the TMA’s. I also struggled at the beginning of this module as I was also overlapping with DSE212: Exploring Psychology, and alongside this I was also in the middle of moving house which was taking up a lot of my time. I found that I ended up a little behind with the reading and struggled to catch back up which lead to a viscous circle of not wanting to pick the books up. Everyone is different and everyone studies differently which means what motivates me may not motivate you however I thought I would share with you what I try when I feel I am struggling.

Firstly I try and understand why I am feeling like the way I am – if it’s personal circumstances you may find that until these are under control you struggle with lack of motivation often throughout your studies so it is worth investing time in managing other areas of your life.

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Something I didn’t do well at the beginning of my degree was utilising down time effectively. This is so important and I most definitely did not get enough down time, through my own choice, for the first few years of my degree. I have now learned that taking time to relax in the evening or having an extra hour in the morning before beginning work actually improves the quality of my work.

Remember why you started! This, in theory, is simple. I remind myself why I started my degree and then picture where I want to be.

Take a break, short breaks are always beneficial. I am at my most productive in the morning straight after I have been out for a walk with the dog.

Treat yourself to something you enjoy. I love stationary and although it is an unnecessary purchase, buying a new notebook, fancy pen or something else paper and pen related often gives me a burst of inspiration and makes me want to write. I also find that the odd take out Costa or Starbucks does a lot for motivation!

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Keeping organised! For me personally, if I have all my book shelves organised, my notes filed, desk tidy etc. I produce work at a higher quality. I struggle when things are disorganised but I am also aware that this is something very personal.

For me though, the biggest way of getting my mojo back is through my voluntary work. I love criminology, psychology, substance misuse, the criminal justice system (the list goes on) and learning about it is fascinating but nothing beats getting involved and stuck in straight at the deep end. Whenever I come back from a days volunteering I always feel so motivated and full of new ideas. This is hands down the one thing which is guaranteed to pick me up when I feel as though I am struggling with study.

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I would love to know what motivates you!

Books for the future

Now that the end of my degree is in sight I have shelves full of books, some which I bought at the very beginning of my degree, which I can’t wait to get stuck into and read! I thought I would share a couple of the books I am really keen to read or to have a proper look at. Of course I won’t read all of these cover to cover but I can’t wait to start doing some of my own research and focus on areas I am really interested in.

Drugs and Crime

Two Hours That Shook The World
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The Oxford Handbook of Criminology

Criminal Man
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Psychology in Prisons
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The Lucifer Effect

Addiction is a Choice
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I haven’t bought any new books for a while as I really want to start getting through the piles of unread books I have but I am still keen for recommendations! I have a list in my Filofax with books I would like to buy so I am always looking for new titles to add to the list!

I spent two years volunteering for the Witness Service which, if you are unaware, support witnesses on their day in court and when 1pm on the 8th October rolls around and I have finished my degree I am eager to understand and develop my understanding of the criminal justice system so if anyone has any books, journals etc. they can recommend I would be ever so grateful.

Thinking about volunteering?

Although I am officially on maternity leave I am still continuing with my role as a volunteer mentor for male offenders, who have served relatively short sentences, upon release from HMP. Luckily as a volunteer I can be rather flexible with when I finish and start back up again after baby’s arrival. Of course working with, often very vulnerable, individuals I wouldn’t just go missing in action for a while when they needed support the most so I am working alongside another mentor who will take over whilst I am away.

I am actually busy all day today with a prison visit and then the organisation of a group get together but whilst having breakfast I have been reflecting on how much I will miss being a volunteer while I have a break for my baby. Of course this is by no means the end of me volunteering and as soon as I feel happy to do so I will be back.

["Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."] – Elizabeth Andrew

Throughout the course of my degree I have been involved in a range of voluntary positions, all of which I have loved! I know that they have all been of huge benefit to me and I have loved being able to get stuck in to something I am really passionate about. Of course I love studying, reading books and learning but nothing beats getting to do something I hope to spend the rest of my life involved in. I know at some point it will come but up until now, over the four years of volunteering I have done I haven’t had a single day where I had arranged to go in and didn’t want to, or couldn’t wait for the day to be over. If anything I would love to do even more but I am aware that it’s important to not let my degree slip as I am hoping the combination of my degree along with the practical experience I have gained will stand me in good stead to progress in my career.

["Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote everyday about the kind of community you want to live in."] – Anonymous

I just wanted to share my thoughts on what it is like to be a volunteer and I honestly couldn’t recommended it enough – for so many reasons! I would love to hear from other people who are volunteers or who are thinking about gaining some voluntary experience!
Sophie

["A moment of self - compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life"] – Christopher Germer