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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 November 2007, 10:38 GMT
CSI 'does not reflect forensics'
A scene from CSI
Marg Helgenberger and William Petersen star in CSI
Hit TV crime shows like CSI and Law and Order do not give a true depiction of the real work carried out by forensic experts, a leading scientist has said.

Dr Sheila Willis, director of Ireland's Forensic Science Laboratory, said TV gave unrealistic expectations of how quickly crimes could be solved.

In a lecture in Dublin, Dr Willis said the shows wrongly suggested they could be cracked within the space of an episode.

She said all partners in the criminal justice system needed to reach a shared level of understanding with regard to the role of forensic science.

Dr Willis was speaking as part of Ireland's Science Week.

A clear appreciation of the potential and limitations of forensic science was made difficult by the popularity of shows like CSI.

CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) is one of the United States' most popular programmes and the Emmy award-winning franchise has produced the spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York.

Pattern evidence

However, Dr Willis said such shows lead people to mistakenly believe only one forensic investigator handled evidence on a specific case.

They also wrongly suggested the forensic scientist always comes to a conclusive determination which would make or break a case by the end of the episode.

The leading scientist said such representations fostered a presumption that "the answers we supply are black and white, but of course there's a grey area".

Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes star in CSI:NY
Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes star in CSI:NY

In reality, "we don't fit it in (in) 47 minutes, and the roles are not all rolled into one", she said.

Many forensic scientists specialised in chemistry, biology, DNA, drugs or pattern evidence, she told delegates.

Dr Willis also said that a lack of a DNA database in Ireland "means we're not getting the maximum value from science in this country".

Last year, a senior policeman in Malaysia said US crime drama CSI was helping criminals escape justice.

"CSI and a few other series teach how to remove traces of crime," said Deputy Inspector General Musa Hassan.

He told the country's Bernama News Agency such television programmes provided insights into how police work and made them more efficient.

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