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Understanding the Use of Digital Forensics in the Investigation and Prosecution of Major Crime Offences in England and Wales

Project Description

The aim is to build upon Brookman’s research by exploring how DF knowledge and practice contributes to the detection and prosecution of major crime. The objectives are:

1. To map out how information, intelligence and evidence are generated from DF within major crime investigations
2. To analyse the trajectory of DF information from its initial collection through to its use in the courtroom
3. To consider how the overlap between DF and traditional forensics is dealt with
4. To unravel problems, sticking points, dilemmas and concerns in the use of DF
5. To examine the impacts (positive, unintended and/or negative) of the different uses of DF on cases
6. To gather a detailed understanding of the priorities, concerns and expectations of DF among key players (e.g. police, scientist and barristers) and stakeholders (e.g. Forensic Science Regulator)
7. To examine the extent of compliance of police and other providers of DF with DF regulation, and the implications of non-compliance
8. To chart how organisational frameworks and regulations as well as occupational cultures shape inter- and intra-professional working.

Methodology and innovations

Major crime investigation can be viewed as ‘sense-making’, collaborative work (Brodeur, 2010) undertaken by actors within distinct organizational or knowledge cultures (Shorrick and Williams, 2016). To document and unravel this, we envision that the following methods will be used:
(i) A review of practitioner texts, guidelines, protocols and official sources relating to DF will be examined to contextualise the analysis nationally and internationally.
(ii) Formal, in-depth interviews with members of digital teams with various specialisms (e.g. technicians, mobile phone examiners, computer investigators, CCTV ‘super-recognisers’), managers, police and senior investigating officers as well as prosecution and defence barristers.
(iii) Ethnographic observation of, and informal interviews, with key actors involved in, ‘live’ on-going major crime investigations at various police forces. Observing interactions as they unfold routinely is key to understanding the work of digital teams, map the passage of information, document the exchanges between stakeholders and chart decisions. The researcher will follow through a number of cases from beginning to end in order to understand the full ‘life of’ digital evidence within the case.
The supervisory team have police contacts across Britain from whom we would seek assistance to access to this ‘closed’ area of activity.

The research will adhere to the ethical principles set out by the British Society of Criminology and require the approval of USW Research Ethics Committee.


Applicants must apply using the online form on the University Alliance website at Full details of the programme, eligibility details and a list of available research projects can be seen at

The final deadline for application is 12 April 2019.

Funding Notes

DTA3/COFUND participants will be employed for 36 months with a minimum salary of (approximately) £20,989 per annum. Tuition fees will waived for DTA3/COFUND participants who will also be able to access an annual DTA elective bursary to enable attendance at DTA training events and interact with colleagues across the Doctoral Training Alliance(s).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801604.


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