IT HAS played a starring role in popular culture in recent years through best-selling crime novels and television series such as CSI.
Now amateur sleuths can learn the skills of a forensic investigator on a weekend course designed for members of the public who have an “interest” in crime scenes.
The course, run by Professor Allan Jamieson, a former head of forensics at Lothian and Borders police and the founder of Glasgow’s Forensic Institute, is aimed at “those who have an interest in criminal investigations and expert evidence” – but assumes no previous knowledge of crime scene work.
Students, who will also be taught by two former forensics workers from Strathclyde police, will be given background information about crime scene techniques and practical instruction and exercises while learning about fingerprinting and evidence.
But crime experts warned that the course, advertised on the organisation’s website and in local media, could fuel the “glamorisation” of criminal activity created by popular TV programmes and books about brutal crimes such as murders.
Tom Wood, former deputy chief constable at Lothian and Borders police, said that crime had become “glamorised” by detective novels and popular television shows.
“It’s quite a phenomenon,” he said. “People find it interesting, fascinating and tantalising, but what these programmes and books don’t get over is the awful, depressing nature of real crime.
“Programmes like CSI which try to replicate the idea of a crime scene just don’t come close to the real thing. If any of these people who have an interest in crime come up against real crime, either as a victim or a witness to a violent incident, they would find the difference is stark.”
The £200 “Crime Scene Weekend” course for the public says that by the end of the course delegates will “understand investigation strategies”.
The course brochure features a picture of a bloody metal knife.
Jamieson, who runs weekend courses for crime writers looking for detailed information for their work, founded the private Forensic Institute, which offers professional services to the legal profession as well as paternity testing and workplace drug tests, more than ten years ago.
Jamieson said: “We are hoping it’s going to be fun as well as informative and give people a better understanding of the problems of investigating a crime scene. A lot of people don’t understand the procedures we have to go through to investigate properly. We are showing people what should be done, rather than what they see on TV.”
He added: “We have an ethical issue over the whole gory thing – we don’t want to encourage people who are just here for the gore.”
A Scottish Police Authority Forensic Services spokesman said a weekend course could only offer ‘‘a taster of an area that most people are fascinated with’’.