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News Staffordshire Forensic Partnership celebrates third anniversary

40 students have worked with Staffordshire Forensic Partnership since its creation in 2016.

Successful graduates Nadine Jones, Craig Ratcliffe and Kayleigh Sheppard join Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes and Staffordshire Police Head of Forensics John Beckwith and Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker at Staffordshire Forensic Partnership third anniversary event.
Image: Successful graduates Nadine Jones, Craig Ratcliffe and Kayleigh Sheppard join Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes and Staffordshire Police Head of Forensics John Beckwith and Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker at Staffordshire Forensic Partnership third anniversary event.

“The students have brought a fresh approach and some great ideas about how we can gather digital evidence from apps and digital devices to help us build criminal cases.”

Nick Baker, Deputy Chief Constable, Staffordshire Police

Gathering evidence from fitness apps and devices and capturing 360-degree footage of crime scenes are among the ways students are contributing to a forensic partnership which celebrates its third anniversary today (May 1).

An event was held today at the University’s Leek Road campus, including talks from former placement students, Staffordshire Police Head of Forensics, John Beckwith, and Dr Graham Williams, Head of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science at Staffordshire University.

Since Staffordshire Forensic Partnership was set up graduates have gone on to work in roles including forensic investigator, forensic presentation officer, university lecturer, and digital forensic analyst and examiner. They are now working with Staffordshire Police, West Midlands Police, Greater Manchester Police, Liverpool John Moores University and private sector digital forensics, among other organisations.

Kurstie Burgess, 24, who graduated with her Forensic Science degree in 2016 and  is now working as a Forensic Presentation Officer with West Midlands Police said: “I was part of the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership looking into the investigation of fooling biometric scanners on mobile phone devices.

“Through the support of the force’s Digital Forensics department I gained a deeper understanding of gaps in the market and how investigation and research could provide possible solutions, leading me to undertaking my project. This understanding and the requirement for forensics to move forward as technology does allowed me to secure the position I have. I now work in a department that is constantly shaped through innovation, research and new technology.”

The programme was set up to exchange ideas between academia and policing and to deliver leading technology and services in forensics. Students participate in six-week or three-month placements and come from traditional and digital forensics backgrounds.

Students have attended crime scenes and conducted research and testing of new equipment. They have also introduced new ideas, such as 360-degree filming which captures evidence and allows investigators to return to a virtual crime scene. Others have tested equipment which searches for ‘invisible’ evidence, such as firearms residue and faint blood spots at crime scenes and evidence gathering from devices such as fitness apps.

Members of Staffordshire Police’s forensics department have given lectures for the students, including how to secure and maintain evidence. The partnership recently won the award for ‘Best Collaboration between a University and Employer’ at the National Undergraduate Employability Awards.

Staffordshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating three years of creative thinking, sharing ideas and developing best practice with our partners at Staffordshire University

“The students have brought a fresh approach and some great ideas about how we can gather digital evidence from apps and digital devices to help us build criminal cases.”

Staffordshire Police Head of Forensics, John Beckwith, said: “We’ve benefited greatly from the programme and I know our staff have enjoyed helping them put theory into practice.”

Head of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Dr Graham Williams, of Staffordshire University, added: “This partnership has been of enormous benefit to our students, embedding real world practical experience and our academic staff have also enjoyed working in collaboration with frontline practitioners. We’re excited about new opportunities the partnership will bring.”

Staffordshire Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, said: “Staffordshire Commissioner Matthew Ellis said: “The pace of advances in forensic science over recent years has made it even more crucial that the right training is in place so the next generation is ready to help the police achieve the best evidence possible.

“That is why I am delighted to celebrate the third anniversary of this important partnership which has already seen students begin real-world work in the criminal justice system."

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