Please note that the following description of the course is only provisional and therefore subject to change.
Background in law
Sufficient command of English
Note that one in three participants does not pass the first exam, so choosing this course is risky if your university requires you to pass every single course you attend. Also take into account the date of the resit exam when you make travel arrangements.
Criminalistics, the exact science part of the forensic sciences, focuses on examinations in criminal cases, the interpretation of the observations and the role of the forensic expert and his reporting in criminal law. Forensic science originated around the turn of the twentieth century and has long been the exclusive domain of the police. The methodological foundations of criminalistics have long been very weak, but in recent years they have developed to a great extent. In order to evaluate the evidence generated by forensic analyses, an understanding of its fundamentals is key. Important questions that come up during the course: What can criminalistics contribute in criminal justice proceedings? How should one communicate forensic evidence to professionals in the criminal justice system (investigators, prosecutors, judges, etc.)? How can forensic analyses be criticized from a scientific standpoint? These questions are discussed on the basis of concrete cases. In addition, some of the course is devoted to media attention and public interest in forensic science. For example, the widespread misunderstanding about what is possible in forensic science is considered, as well as the resulting disappointment when the practice proves to be more complicated than the fiction of television shows like CSI.
Classical principles of forensic science
Scientific interpretation and evaluation of evidence
Interfaces of forensic science, the law, law enforcement, and the general public
Reasoning with evidence in cases Key words: principles of forensic science; interpretation of evidence; science and the law; logical framework; evidential value; case assessment and interpretation; contextual information; areas of expertise; role of expert in judicial system.
Objectives of the course
The course has the following objectives:
Improve your knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of forensic science for investigative and evaluative purposes;
Raise your awareness of the gap between science and the law, and the role of science and logic in the judicial system;
Increase your awareness of the problems that arise at the interfaces of science, the law, law enforcement, and the general public.
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:
- See the above information
The timetable of this course can be found in uSis
Mode of instruction
Number of (2 hour) lectures: One 2-hour lecture per week for five weeks
Names of lecturers: prof. dr. Charles Berger
Required preparation by students: study assigned materials from the book and the reader.
Number of (2 hour) seminars: One 2-hour seminar per week for five weeks
Names of instructors: prof. dr. Charles Berger.
Other methods of instruction
- Visit to the Netherlands Forensic Institute (1 day)
- Written exam
Areas to be tested within the exam
The required reading (literature) for the course, the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.
Obligatory course materials
Literature: Interpreting Evidence: Evaluating Forensic Science in the Courtroom, 2nd edition, 2016, Wiley
Reader, available on Brightspace.
Recommended course materials
- To be announced
Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.
Coordinator: Prof. dr. C.E.H. Berger
Work address: KOG, room C 1.23
Contact information: Through secretariat of Criminal Law
Telephone number: +31 (0) 71 527 7324
Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology
Room number secretary: B3.11
Opening hours: Mo/Tu/Th/Fr 9-17 h
Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7324