Dickson Lab shortlisted for Innovation Award

Dickson Lab shortlisted for Innovation Award

Forensic Archaeologists at York Archaeological Trust’s Dickson Laboratory in Glasgow, were shortlisted for the Archaeological Innovation Award at the British Archaeological Awards 2014 for their use of time-lapse photographic recording of body recovery for criminal investigation.

Forensic archaeologists, Dr Jennifer Miller and David Thurley, pioneered the technology that acts as a powerful tool to help juries and legal professionals understand the interpretations drawn by the forensic archaeologist excavating a clandestine burial, demonstrating the perpetrator’s efforts into body concealment. The excavation of human remains in a murder investigation takes many hours and the usual process of displaying real-time video footage in court is problematic and time consuming. This innovative, highly-visual time lapse record, taken from many angles and by crime officers on scene, enables the entire sequence of events to be viewed as a short, intensely focused video that has huge impact in court. The great advantage of this technique is the simplicity of it, requiring only a static digital camera on a tripod with a timer to capture images in the field that can then be manipulated by archaeological IT personnel to make as detailed or as simple a video as the Court requires.  Links can be added to show other significant factors or archaeological techniques, including for example, close up images of items recovered during the stratigraphic removal of layers of concealment or the spatial patterning of evidence within a gridded search area.

The technique, used several times in court to prosecute guilty offendents, including most notably the case of Her Majesty’s Advocate versus James Dunleavy in January 2014, has been praised highly by Police Scotland and by both the Scottish Procurator Fiscal Service and the UK Crown Prosecution Service as being a ‘Powerful Forensic Technique with Significant Application’. The Trust’s time-lapse videos of body recoveries are now shown to every new Crime Scene Manager trained in Scotland and are presented by senior detective officers at UK wide CPD events as an example of best practice.

For more information on the Dickson Laboratory and the forensic work undertaken by York Archaeological Trust please contact Jennifer Miller here

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