Associate Professor James Speers

Academic Chair Post Graduate Course in Forensic Science (Professional Practice)

About me

I have extensive experience as a senior forensic scientist practitioner in the forensic investigation and management of serious crimes and terrorist offences in Northern Ireland. I have also considerable experience in programme development, teaching and practice of forensic services (both forensic science and forensic medicine) at national (UK) and international level (Poland, Turkey, Jordan and Palestine). The teaching of forensic services and crime scene investigation/ management is in the context of the professional development of forensic scientists and pathologists, and in creating forensic awareness and knowledge within police forces and criminal justice systems.

I have considerable experience in leading and developing programmes of work for the United Nations and the European Union to modernise the criminal justice system and security sector in the Middle-East, specialising in the development of forensic services and legal frameworks.

I have recently taken up a position at Murdoch University to develop the Graduate Certificate and Master’s degree programmes in Forensic Science (Professional Practice).

My research interests centre on developing methods for the analysis of forensic evidence. I have published scientific papers and supervised a number of Doctorate and Post-Doctorate projects (within my role as Honorary Professor of Forensic Science at Queen’s University Belfast). I am an internationally recognised expert in developing forensic services, the detection and profiling of drugs of abuse, particularly Ecstasy and unknown New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and the analysis and recovery of inorganic and organic explosives and firearm cartridge discharge residues.

Teaching area

This Masters course (the Graduate Certificate is a 4 unit component of the Masters programme) provides graduates in life sciences or equivalent, with professional training and practice of forensic and crime scene investigation to international standards. Students develop the theoretical and practical skills (in dedicated ‘dolls houses’) relevant to the forensic investigation of volume and serious crimes. Instruction in core forensic disciplines (blood pattern analysis, forensic DNA, fingerprints and impression evidence and digital forensics) and key forensic specialisms (anthropology, disaster victim identification (DVI) entomology, palynology and pathology) with associated legal requirements and Court testimony are provided. Reconstruction of the different crime scene types and crime scene processing by the students is emphasised, as is the collection, processing and interpretation of biological and physical evidence. In addition, students performing the role of a forensic/ crime scene investigators will undertake three ‘capstone’ field trips to dedicated facilities to process: a mock murder scene, a body recovery exercise and the blood pattern analysis of a crime scene. The mock murder scene and body recovery exercises are a prelude to your delivery of an expert witness report and courtroom testimony.

A number of the Masters course theory and practical sessions are taught and supervised by Western Australian (WA) Police Forensic Division experts.

The Masters projects and dissertations units are aligned with the research and innovation needs of the WA forensic providers, namely ChemCentre, PathWest and WA Police Forensic Division. Students will have the opportunity to work with these organisations and enhance their forensic experience. International students will also be encouraged to undertake projects/ dissertations with their local forensic providers.

The Masters course is designed to generate post-graduates with the practical and theoretical skills needed to work with the Police and other investigative authorities as Forensic Investigators or Crime Scene Officers. Each unit has 120hrs of teaching with 60hrs direct contact (50% theory and 50% practical).

Course Structure – 18 months with 36 credit points (entry in either S1 or S2)

BIO596 – Crime Scene Investigation I

BIO597 – Death and Homicide Investigation

BIO598 – Fingerprints and Impression Evidence

BIO599 – Forensic Human DNA analysis

BIO685 –  Crime Scene Investigation II

SOU681 – Digital Forensics

BIO692 –  Blood pattern Analysis

VLS683 –  Applied Research methods

VLS690 or VLS629 – Project or Dissertation undertaken either at WA Police Forensic Division, PathWest (Forensic Biology) or ChemCentre (Forensic Chemistry).

Research areas

My main research interests have focused on the development of new forensic analytical methods for the identification and analysis of forensic evidence, such as: bulk explosives; trace explosive and firearm residues; drugs of abuse/ Novel/New Psychoactive Substances’s and toxicological samples; fibre dyes, document inks/ markers;  paints; latent fingerprints and footwear impression enhancement. In addition, I supported industrial companies in the development of their products and instrumentation, resulting in the application and joint development of the products for analysis and identification of trace forensic evidence.

In my role as Forensic Scientific Advisor to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) UK, I developed new forensic spectroscopic techniques. This has been on-going as part of my Honorary Professorship duties. In addition, I was responsible for:

  1. Joint supervision of Forensic Science Northern Ireland laboratory (FSNI)/ UK Home Office funded pre/post Doctorate and Master’s degree students at QUB.
  2. External project supervisor to M.Sc. students in Forensic Science from Strathclyde and King’s College, London Universities.
  3. Project collaboration with QUB, Police Service Northern Ireland, European institutions and European industry, resulting in the successful granting of three European Union 7th Framework projects relating to the security sector. I am the forensic advisor for each of the projects.
  4. Supervisor for joint QUB/ FSNI EPSRC Impact funding projects and a referee for five QUB EPRSC projects.

 

Current projects

My current research focus:

1. I have a special interest in the rapid analysis/ identification New Psychoactive Substances (NPS’s) and the use of Chemometrics in the forensic characterisation of unknown NPS’s.

2. The spectroscopic methods to determine the age of blood stains deposited at crime scenes. and the

3. Alignment of the student Masters projects to the enhancement of the operational capabilities of the WA forensic providers – WA Police Forensic Division, ChemCentre and PathWest.

Events and speaking engagements

  1. IALFS Conference Dubai 2014 – Chair of Forensic and Clinical Toxicology session
  2. Co-Chair Raman Spectroscopy session IAFS – Helsinki 2006
  3. Conference Chair/ organiser ‘Sexual offences examinations and best practice’ in the UK 2003.
  4. Conference Chair/ organiser – ‘ New techniques in Forensic Science – Queens’ University Belfast 2002.

Publications

Journals

  • Jones, L., Stewart, A., Peters, K., McNaul, M., Speers, S., Fletcher, N., Bell, S., (2016), Infrared and Raman screening of seized novelpsychoactive substances: a large scale study of>200 samples, The Analyst, 141, 3, pages 902 - 909.
  • Lee, W., Silverson, V., Jones, L., Ho, Y., Fletcher, N., McNaul, M., Peters, K., Speers, S., Bell, S., (2015), Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of novel psychoactive substances using polymer-stabilized Ag nanoparticle aggregates, Chemical Communications (Online), 52, 3, pages 493 - 496.