Forensic Science & the Law: A Case Study

Subject HPSC30036 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

July, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 06-Jul-2015 to 17-Jul-2015
Assessment Period End 07-Aug-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 08-Jul-2015
Census Date 17-Jul-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 24-Jul-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 60 minute lecture and 1 x 120 minute tutorial each day for 10 days
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr James Bradley, Prof Joel Eigen


James Bradley

Subject Overview:

In England, between 1750 and 1914, scientific testimony increasingly became a feature of the law. In particular, the scope given to the expert witness shaped the development of the common law. The forensic sciences, in general, became a tool for identifying the criminal, while forensic psychiatry, in particular, was integral to developing new notions of criminal culpability and responsibility. In the process, society's understanding of both crime and the criminal was significantly modified by the emergence of these new sciences.

This subject will focus on the remarkable record-set that has been provided by the digitisation of the Old Bailey Session Papers (OBSP). As London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey was the predominant theatre of crime and punishment in the largest city in the world. The OBSP provides transcripts of the trials which offer extraordinary insights into the workings of the law and the past lives of the long dead historical actors. At the same time, they allow us to chart the transformations wrought upon law and society by the emergence of the forensic sciences.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • understand the emergence of forsensic science, especially forensic psychiatry, in the context of the development of common law, policing, medical jurisprudence and psychiatry;
  • synthesise, analyse and assess arguments about the history of the forensic sciences, contextualising these arguments within the broader domains of medicine, history, philosophy;
  • create effective arguments, backed up by convincing evidence, about the development of the forensic scient, and be able to express these to experts and interested non-experts;
  • develop high-level research skills, including the ability to extend your knowledge-base beyond subject materials, combining traditional library- and archive-based research;
  • develop effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
  • demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities, including a deep ethical engagement with issues around the law and the mind.

A 1200 word presentation of 5 cases from the OBSP, 30% (due 2 weeks after the end of teaching), a group collaboration, equivalent to 800 words, 20% (due in the final workshop) and a 2000 word critical essay, 50% (due 5 weeks after the end of teaching).

Hurdle Requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of workshops in order to pass this subject. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science

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