Australian forensic textile damage examinations - Finding a way forward since PCAST

Kate Sloan, Macarthur Fergusson, James Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Textile damage examinations are requested in a range of crime types such as assault, sexual assault and homicide. They typically involve the examination of clothing for damage such as cut, tear or thermal damage, often then followed by experimental scenario testing to help ascertain the cause of the damage. Understanding the underpinning science is central to the accurate interpretation of the complex mechanism of damage formation. In a stabbing incident for example, an understanding of the dynamic relationship between the knife blade, fabric and skin (or skin simulant) is critical. Recent reports, including the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report, have scrutinised forensic feature-based comparison techniques. Whilst textile damage was not a focus area, it can be considered a feature-based evidence class, and one which is currently largely reliant upon a practitioner's opinion, experience and professional judgement. This paper will review the current state of textile damage examinations in Australia and survey research being conducted to address the issues raised in the context of the PCAST report. The central contribution of observational data to the evidence class of textile damage will also be explored, as well as some practical measures to counter the effects of cognitive bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-152
Number of pages8
JournalScience and Justice
Volume59
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

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