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Forensic science expert to travel the globe to tackle knife crime

A forensic science expert from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is set to travel to two continents for a project aimed at improving detection and reducing occurrences of knife crime.

Leisa Nichols-Drew will find out how leading researchers and practitioners in Canada and Australia respond to knife offences and share her findings to benefit people across the UK.

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The project is possible thanks to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, whose Fellowships enable recipients to expand their personal and professional horizons and make a difference to communities.

Leisa said: "I am so honoured to be given this prestigious opportunity to represent the UK, DMU and forensic science overseas."

Applying for the Fellowship's Science, Technology and Innovation category back in September, Leisa was invited for an interview to discuss her proposal, Targeting Knife Crime: A Forensic Scientist's Perspective.

"It was one of the hardest things I have ever undertaken," she said. "They look at whether the project is viable and how you, as a person, will represent the trust and your country, as you become a Churchill Fellow for life."

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In addition to being a lecturer at DMU, Leisa also works cases as a forensic examiner. It is the increasing number of stabbing cases coming through the lab that led her to apply for a Fellowship.

"It hit home how important this project is," said Leisa, whose professional career includes working on some of the most high-profile cases in recent British criminal history, such as the Soham murders.

Leisa has chosen to engage with researchers and observe practitioners in Canada, where stabbing is the most common method of committing homicide, and Australia, because knives are the most commonly used weapons. She will fly out over the summer.

"I will look at how the two countries deal with knife crime - from how they investigate it to lab processes and new research," she said.

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Leisa's work will bring benefits to a wide range of people.

"The beneficiaries could be anyone in the UK, as knife crime can happen anywhere," said Leisa, who has already been liaising with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime.

"For our Forensic Science students, it means I can bring a new dimension to their learning, for staff, it could help with collaborations and, for the UK, it could inform policy.

"I have also been asked to do a forensic science laboratory, which could help with dissemination of knowledge and training of practitioners."

Before then, Leisa will get to meet other Fellows at an event in March. "I am really excited," she said.

Part of Leisa's role as a Fellow is to represent the UK in her sector and encourage others to join the trust.

She added: "Previous recipients in my area who have inspired me include Dr Helen Bandey, a leading authority on fingermark visualisation, and Hazel Biggs, who is eminent within the Home Office.

"I hope my story does inspire other people to apply from DMU."

Posted on Friday 9th March 2018

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