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Criminalistics (elective course)


Admission requirements

  • Background in law;

  • Sufficient command of English;

  • Students who plan to enter the master "Forensische criminologie" are strongly advised against participating in this course, because it partly overlaps the master course Criminalistiek en bewijswaardering. Participation in Criminalistics does not exempt students from taking the master course;

  • We generally see 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, academic science 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 strength; case assessment and interpretation; contextual information; areas of expertise; role of expert in judicial system.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students:

  • Will be able to provide knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of forensic science for investigative and evaluative purposes;

  • Will have awareness of the gap between science and the law, and the role of science and logic in the judicial system;

  • Will have awareness of the problems that arise at the interfaces of science, the law, academic science, and the general public.


Check MyTimetable.

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).

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • 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.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. 4.1.8 and further of the Course and Examination Regulations). Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course if they meet certain requirements. For more information, go to the website > ‘Law’ tab > ‘Retake a passed exam’.

Reading list

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


Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.  

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.



  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Room number secretary: B3.11

  • Opening hours: Monday - Friday, 09.00-16.00 h

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7871 / 527 7872 / 527 7462

  • Email: