The use of forensic entomology to assist the Criminal Justice System
By Dr Andrew J. Hart, forensic specialist, The Forensic Science Service, London and Dr Martin J. R. Hall and Amoret P. Whitaker MSc DIC, forensic entomologists, Natural History Museum, London
Entomology is the study of insects and other arthropods. Knowledge of entomology can be of great value in a forensic context, particularly in the estimation of timescales of the occurrence of an incident. This article explains its use in criminal investigations and how it may be of benefit to barristers, both prosecution and defence, when building their cases. A common application of forensic entomology is in the estimation of time since death (post-mortem interval or PMI): two to three days after death of a human, it can be difficult to estimate the PMI by standard pathological techniques. However, entomology can assist in determining minimum PMI both within and beyond these first few days and thus indicate a time frame of death which may help to implicate or exonerate a defendant. Research forms an important role in the development of this science as a forensic discipline and this is briefly outlined to provide background information. Forensic entomology is becoming a standard tool in criminal investigations. It is likely to become more frequently used as evidence in court and some of the questions that may be raised are addressed in this article.