Textile damage examinations on the cutting edge–an Australian perspective

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Requests for textile damage examinations can result from a variety of crime types. While a reasonable proportion involve an edged implement, a broad spectrum of damage types can be encountered. The examination requires an understanding of the complex mechanism of damage formation to enable an accurate interpretation and reliable conclusion to be formulated. The report recently published by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) scrutinized numerous forensic feature-based comparisons, and highlighted deficiencies in their validity and reliability. Textile damage was not a focus area of this report, but is a subjective feature-based technique. It is, by necessity, largely reliant upon a practitioner’s opinion, experience and professional judgement, and is therefore subject to the report’s commentary. Significant progress has been made to strengthen the discipline since examinations were conducted during the investigation of the death of Azaria Chamberlain nearly 40 years ago. The purpose of this paper is to review the current state of textile damage examinations in Australia in light of the PCAST report, and to survey the work being conducted to improve the foundational science and standardization of damage analysis. Certain areas requiring future attention and research, such as empirical studies, will be discussed.




Sloan, K., Fergusson, M., & Robertson, J. (2018). Textile damage examinations on the cutting edge–an Australian perspective. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 50(6), 682–688. https://doi.org/10.1080/00450618.2018.1438877

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