THEY say that crime doesn’t pay, but it may well pay to study crime as Essex’s first BSc (Hons) Criminology & Forensic Investigation degree is hoping to prove, beyond reasonable doubt of course, when it begins this October at South Essex College’s Southend Campus.
Its highly qualified course team includes experienced former police personnel, enthusiastic forensic scientists and a head of digital forensics for a prominent city firm.
Heading up this impressive team is barrister Judy Kanani. She is hoping to infuse students with the same passion she has about justice, the legal system and criminality.
“I’ve always had this sense of social justice, even when I was at school so you could say I was bitten by the criminology bug early. Even though it is initially a subject that is outside many people’s comfort zone I really want those studying it to catch that bug and want that passion to come across in my lectures.”
Judy is also an accredited death row case worker with Amicus, a small legal charity which helps provide representation for those facing the death penalty. This gives her an insight into how both justice systems work.
The degree, which is delivered by South Essex College and validated by the University of Essex, is fairly unique in that it follows crime from who commits it and why, how they are caught and what happens to them when they are found guilty.
Judy explained: “Criminology provides the study of criminals and criminal behaviour; are they born or does society create them? Is prison the best way to deal with criminals or are there better ways? With reoffending rates so high in this country we need a pragmatic approach to this issue, especially the way we deal with the young who transgress the law. It’s all really interesting and certainly sparks lively debate as it impacts everyone in society.
The investigation element covers the policing side, such as what evidence exists, how is it treated and what value does it add. Then there is forensics, which is the scientific treatment of evidence and is the source of all the gory stuff you see on TV.”
For that element the course has ordered in special reusable detachable heads which can be filled with blood and subjected to trauma in order to determine the angle and instrument used in head injuries; these will be used in conjunction with angle splatter boards. Other areas of the course will include entomology, which uses nature and the science of insects to tell how long a body has laid undiscovered depending on, amongst other things, a species’ life cycle.
There are still places on the course that is set to turn armchair detectives into Southend’s version of CSI. Leading this clamour for investigating cadavers, the causes of crime and the ins and outs of the courtroom are female students, both young and mature, hoping to show Jessica Fletcher a thing or two.
The peak in interest for women has been attributed, in part, to shows with strong female leads, such as Silent Witness, which has really helped open up this twilight world.
The course has such an appeal it is even attracting students back into education. Mum of three, Donna Boulden, 33, from Westcliff, is a big fan of the US crime drama Criminal Minds and of famed crime novelist Patricia Cornwell.
She said: “I’ve always had a keen interest in crime related books and TV programmes, especially the serial killer and psychology side. I was looking at restudying again and wanted to study an area that really interested me and had looked at an Open University related course, but that was too long a commitment. I then looked an Access course but then I discovered this degree that incorporated each and every aspect that I wanted…right on my doorstep. Case closed!”
Someone else excited about starting the course is Rebecca Wells from Basildon who has just completed her Uniformed Public Services course at the College. The 18 year old has already had quite a year with her gaining a triple distinction star for her course, the equivalent of three A* at A level, and has just been accepted for training to be a Special Constable
Rebecca said: “I really can’t wait to start this course. I’ve always wanted to work for the police and on my last course I was lucky enough to go out on work experience with the Southend Scene of Crime Officer. I want to help people and make a difference and I can’t think of a better way to do it than with a degree like this.
She continued: “I had been looking at this type of course elsewhere but since Judy mentioned they were looking at starting one here in Southend I’ve been constantly bugging her about it. I enjoyed my Public Services course at the College and did really well on it, so it wasn’t a hard decision to want to stay on and study in Southend; it’s also a lot cheaper studying at home so whichever way you look at it it’s a win win.”
The course, whether the people studying it want to be a criminologist, forensic scientist or want to go into the police, opens them up to so many transferable skills.
Summing up, Judy concluded: “For me, one of the most important things that students take from this course is the ability to make judgements; to form an opinion that is robust and stands up to challenge. It’s quite a difficult thing to do because, although we have to make judgements and form opinions every day, one that’s going to be tested in court and carries professional credentials and potentially someone’s liberty with it is incredibly important. Students have to learn to trust their own judgment and it’s not an easy skill to learn. Whatever role our student’s progress onto, this course makes them more analytical and more aware and that makes them extremely effective in their work or in further study.”
Find out more about the degree by visiting the South Essex College Clearing page at www.SouthEssex.ac.uk/Courses/Clearing.aspx.