In this 21st century forensics field has become very popular almost all over the world and Malaysia as a rapidly developing country, is no exception. Forensics as pure science or applied science has long existed and the focus is given only recently.
The public is in the opinion that forensics is a new field that need attention is not true because the field has actually been around for centuries. It began with a leading scientist in the name of Dr.Edmond Locard.
He pioneered field forensic science, and later went to form the ‘Crime Laboratory’, the first investigation laboratory in Lyon France in 1910. He held a degree in doctor of medicine and law.
Source from Stagnara Denise, private collection, Odenas, 2007
His passion made him pioneered the field of forensics and further expanded the use of forensic science in police investigative techniques. His contribution to the world of forensic is invaluable via his Locard Principle’s which translated as “Any action of an individual and obviously the violent action constituting a crime, cannot occur without leaving a trace”.
He made use of scientific techniques to assist in the investigation of the authorities, especially the police in solving criminal cases which are complicated and with no eye witnesses.
The question is why now? Forensic field is getting the attention while it has long been used in the solving of numerous cases associated with the crime.
No doubt the making of various TV series themed around forensic science did rebrand the scene investigation and indirectly has attracted the attention of the viewers of television programs.
Drama series produced by Jerry Bruckheimer in 2000, entitled CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ‘ which revolved on a group of scientists and police officers work together to carry out an investigation at the scene and in the laboratory to obtain physical evidence to solve heinous and complicated crime around the city of Las Vegas has set a high precedent of standard for forensic investigation.
Since then a variety of television programs oriented towards scene investigation and forensic science produced to meet the demands and taste of the audience. Among them are CSI: New York, CSI: Miami, NCSI, Criminal Minds, Bones and many more. This show has given new impetus to the role performed by scientists in the field of forensics and disclose to a variety of careers in the field of forensics.
Forensic The Ministry Of Health Malaysia
The pace of development of the world in pursuit of purely materialistic has established disequilibrium gap between economic and social development that led to increase in social problems. Social problem in question is the crime committed such as murder, rape and many more.
Authorities such as the police often face difficulty in resolving cases due the absence or lack of evidence for the purpose of prosecution or conviction on criminal offenses. The fact is the evidence is always present at the scene but due to lack of expertise and experience in detecting, identifying and analyzing the evidence lead to unsolved cases.
This is where the role of a person who has particular expertise in the field of forensics can be used in assisting the investigation until a conviction against individuals can be made purely based on the evidence obtained at scene of crime.
It is a social obligation of the authority of country to reduce the crime rate in any country especially in Malaysia even though reports shows a declining of 10 % a year since 2010.
The main reasoning is due to the increasing incidence of serious crimes which indirectly causing people to feel unsafe to perform daily activities while trying to make a living in peaceful surrounding.
Forensics by definition means the application of scientific knowledge in the legal procedures in court of law. Evidence is gathered and analyzed using sophisticated and modern equipment to produce authentic and accurate report that will help the Malaysian Criminal Justice system by helping in the prosecution of cases in court.
Based on the report given by forensic practitioners, the court may decide in convicting or clearing the person which is prosecuted by the authority. Thus the role played by forensic practitioner is very crucial because their report and finding will have significant impact in the course of justice.
At every scene of crime when it involved an individual committing a crime will leave behind physical evidence even in trace amount unconsciously. Forensic practitioners have a responsibility to detect and collect this left behind evidence at the scene.
The evidence will be sent to the forensic laboratory and goes through a series of analysis, depending on the type of evidence. Evidence that can be commonly found at the scene of crime is, such as blood, body fluids, strands of hair, fingerprints, hand, foot or shoe prints, and any others evidence that scene of crime investigator feels important
Often cases of serious crimes such as murder and rape can be brought to justice are very much dependent on the scientific evidence submitted. In such cases various fields of expertise is needed depending on the type of evidence obtained.
At any scene of crime the victim usually will be found alive but some are not so lucky will end up dead. In any forensic investigation when body found at the scene will requires the help of forensic practitioners attached to the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH). Areas that is covered by the Ministry of Health is known as Forensic Medicine, Forensic Toxicology, Histology, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Odontology Forensics, Forensic Radiology, Forensic Entomology, Forensic Biology, and Clinical Forensic (involving people who are still alive).
Beside Ministry of Health Malaysia forensic services are also offered by other government agencies such as the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP), Department of Chemistry Malaysia, Fire and Rescue Department and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Role Of Forensic Practitioners In MOH
Forensic Medicine refers to the application of medical knowledge in solving medico legal cases. The main function of this field is conduct autopsy on the dead bodies sent by the police in order to determine the cause of death.
The autopsy on the dead can only be carried out in government hospital by a qualified and doctor who registered and works with the MOH. For cases involving victims of murder, rape and / or suspicious death, post-mortem will be carried out by forensic medicine specialist or forensic pathologist.
Forensic Pathologist/ Forensic Medicine Specialist
Forensic Pathologist/ Forensic Medicine Specialist are a person who is already obtained a medical degree and completed further training in the field of forensic medicine. With the specialized training the forensic pathologist is tasked to handle more serious and completed cases that require higher level expertise and experiences.
Common cases that are referred to forensic pathologist is such as murder, rape, sodomy, burned, death in custody, decomposed bodies and all cases involving death in suspicious circumstances.
Postmortem examination can only be carried out after the issuance of P61 request by a police officer with the rank of sergeant and above.
There are also situations involving next of kin that do not consent for a post mortem examination to be conducted. Request for postmortem which is issued by police can only be withdrawn if only the family member’s managed to obtained order of cancelation order from the magistrate. .
After conducting a post-mortem examination of forensic pathologist will produce a detailed report based on the autopsy findings during the autopsy including the laboratory reports.
They will also be required to attend court to give expert testimony on the based on the report given earlier. Forensic Pathologist also will be called to attend the scene of crime to inspect the dead body. This exercise is crucial because the condition and position of the body found at the scene of crime is an important element in the aspect crime scene reconstruction. .
There are also situations that involve body or bodies that cannot be identified (identity or age) due to lack of documents or information because of the imperfect body condition (body decomposition).
Here the role of the forensic practitioner in field Odontology (Forensic Odontology @ Dentistry) is required. Forensic Odontology refers to the application of knowledge in dentistry and dental examinations as well as the effects of the bite (bite marks) in the identification of the identity that will be used in the legal process.
Forensic Odontologist has an important role in solving cases that have difficulty in identifying the victim or body. The process of identification of the unknown body ‘s can start at the place the incident such as disaster or during an autopsy performed . Post mortem and ante mortem dental information will be compared to identify the bodies. In addition, other unique information or characteristic found on the victim’s teeth such abnormal growth of the teeth; radiographs images dental anatomy of the face is also used as an identification source.
A person interested in becoming practitioners in the field forensic odontology must obtain degree in dentistry and later pursue studies at the master’s or doctoral degree level in your field of forensic Dentistry or sub- specialties in order to become a skilled Forensic Odontologist.
Forensic science is a very broad term that encompasses a variety of sub-fields in the world of forensics. Forensic science refers to the application of science in the legal process. Definition of forensic science implies that the scope of knowledge covered is very vast.
Forensic Science Practitioners under the Ministry of Health is better known as forensic science officers (Forensic Scientist). The role of the practitioner is no less important compared with practitioners in the field of forensic medicine.
The presences of forensic scientist complement the service in order to provide a comprehensive forensic medicine services for the nation. Their responsibilities are more focused on medico legal specimen handling and analysis.
Evidence taken during the post mortem examination will be sent to the forensic laboratory for analysis. At the laboratory, forensic science practitioners will received the evidence or medico legal specimens and perform tests that are relevant and appropriate for detecting and identifying the contents of substance in the specimen received.
The specimen received for analysis is such as blood, urine, vitreous humor and other fluid / bodily fluid deemed necessary. Common analyses are for detecting and identifying dangerous drug, alcohol content, carbon monoxide and toxic/poisonous substances. The presence of foreign substances in the body fluids can help in giving the cause of death or provide basis for prosecutions based on the current law.
Forensic science officer also will be required give evidence in court based on the laboratory analysis report provided by them if necessary. This means that the role of forensic science practitioners does not ends once the report is produce but will continue to provide ongoing information until a case is resolved.
The Forensic Science Officer also has a role in assisting forensic pathologist at the scene of crime. They can give advice based on the evidence and circumstance that seen at the crime scene and help in reconstructing the act of crime. This exercise will give a preliminary focus on modus operandi of the crime.
Detecting and collecting physical evidence relevant in the investigation often carried by forensic scientists. They also play an important role in the sketch and record the scene using the camera based on forensic photography techniques.
Bodies found at the scene, not always in fresh or intact form but maybe at various stages of decay or just bone remains. Forensic anthropologists play an important role in identifying whether the bones were found human bones or not, belong to men or women, and even can conclude manner or cause of death. Forensic science officers are also involved in the analysis of skeletal remains at forensic anthropology laboratory.
Bodies that found at various stages of decaying also will be colonized by larvae of certain insect. The identification of larvae species and concluding the larvae growth cycle or stage will provide a very useful information in estimating the time since death. This field is known as forensic entomology. Role of forensic scientists is collect samples insects and larvae according to the method of collection and suitable containers before sent for laboratory analysis.
Forensic science practitioners also has a role in providing histological slides of tissue taken at autopsy in forensic histology laboratory for identification by forensic pathologist to support and substantiate in deriving cause of death.
Presently, there are many fields of forensic sciences that have been set up to provide professional evidence-based services to Malaysian. MOH as one of the authority in the field of forensic services, still has the opportunities for improvement and development with regards to human resource, infrastructure, equipment and not forgetting the continuous training for personnel; in order to keep pace with the rapidly evolving and technology advancement.
- Forensic Science (http://www.explorehealthcareers.com/en/Field.22.aspx)
- Institut Perubatan Forensik Negara : http://ipfn.moh.gov.my/
|Last Reviewed||:||2 July 2014|
|Writer / Translator||:||Saravanakumar a/l Maniam|
|Accreditor||:||Dr. Mohd Shah b. Mahmood|