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Forensic Podiatry: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Forensic Podiatry: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1 What is Forensic Podiatry?

2 What training must I have to be a Forensic Podiatrist?

3 Where can I find out more?

 1 What is Forensic Podiatry?

In general terms, Forensic Podiatry is the application of Podiatry knowledge to legal matters.

Forensic Podiatry has been defined as:

“the application of sound and researched Podiatry knowledge and experience in forensic investigations, to show the association of an individual with a scene of crime, or to answer any other legal question concerned with the foot or footwear that requires knowledge of the functioning foot”. (Vernon and McCourt, 1999). 

Key to the development of this area of practice is that the Podiatry knowledge and experience used must be sound and researched, and that the work of Forensic Podiatrist is limited to those aspects of the foot or footwear that require knowledge of the functioning foot. 

Forensic Podiatry casework is usually undertaken at the request of law enforcement agencies and lawyers.

Forensic Podiatry currently has four sub-specialties:

·         Barefoot prints

Barefoot prints are sometimes found at crime scenes, creating the potential to link the footprints with the perpetrator.  This area of forensic identification has multidisciplinary potential, employing techniques such as footprint ridge detail and outline footprint morphology in the identification process.  This work would be carried out at the request of marks examiners, police agencies or lawyers, or other professional groups working in the field such as friction ridge detail analysts and forensic anthropologists. The role of the Podiatrist is both descriptive and interpretative, describing and comparing known and unknown footprints, with a particular emphasis on foot dimensions and the recognition of foot-related conditions.

 ·         Footwear

Footwear can be associated with scenes of crime in a number of ways.  Because criminals need to enter and leave a crime scene, there is the potential for them to leave evidence of their footwear, which can be used to identify the footwear of the perpetrator. There may then be the task of linking the footwear to a known individual, particularly in the case of denied ownership and it is in this specific area that forensic podiatrists become involved. Footwear can also be linked to a crime scene through the presence of trace evidence associated with the crime scene such as DNA or fibres. This area of work is multidisciplinary, involving contributions from a variety of forensic specialists.

 ·         Forensic Gait Analysis

Forensic Gait Analysis is defined as:

“The identification of a person or persons by their gait or features of their gait, usually from CCTV footage and in comparison to footage of a known individual”. (Kelly 2000)

Where the perpetrator of a crime has been recorded on CCTV or other video footage, the characteristics of the individual’s gait can assist in their identification by comparison to that of a known person. This work is currently the exclusive domain of Forensic Podiatrists. Biometric gait identification systems are also undergoing development.

 ·         Identification from Podiatry records

Clinical Podiatry records can be used in the identification of deceased persons.  While the techniques involved could be of use in the identification of any deceased individual who has previously received Podiatry treatment, they can be of particular use when the lower limb has been separated from the body, or when other features of the body have been subject to widespread trauma, thereby compromising other methods of identification.  This work would be carried out at the request of forensic pathologists, police agencies, mass disaster agencies and other professional groups working in the field. The specialist nature of this work makes it the exclusive domain of the Podiatry profession.

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2 What training must I have to be a Forensic Podiatrist?

Podiatrist is a protected title in the UK and therefore first and foremost, one must have undertaken and successfully completed an approved course leading to eligibility for registration with the Health Professions Council. In the UK this is by obtaining a BSc degree in Podiatric Medicine or Podiatry.

You must have also undertaken courses that allow you to demonstrate competency in practicing in a medico-legal environment. There are a range of courses available to help you develop these enhanced professional skills including:

  Masters or negotiated Masters Degree programmes enabling the individual to obtain a Masters degree relevant to or majoring in Forensic Podiatry.

•  Forensic Science degree programmes at Masters and Bachelor of Science degree levels.

•  Postgraduate Diploma programmes in Forensic Human Identification (DFHID) and Diagnostic and Therapeutic Footwear.

•  Expert Witness training courses

•  Forensic Podiatry training workshops, seminars and conferences.

Given the level of Expertise and Standard expected of an Expert giving evidence in their area of expertise, it is recommended that individuals providing Forensic Podiatry reports have a higher qualification beyond a BSc Podiatry degree or degree equivalent.

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3 Where can I find out more?

Please see the pdf document on SOCAP website entitled: "Forensic Podiatry : Advice and Recommendations on obtaining and Developing expertise in this area".



Post graduate certificate in Forensic Podiatry  


Postgraduate certificate: Footwear in Diagnosis and Therapy, University of Staffordshire

www.staffs.ac.uk/courses and study/courses/footwear-in-diagnosis-and-therapy

Negotiated Masters degree: University of Staffordshire, which can be used to gain a MSc in Forensic Podiatry.

www.staffs.ac.uk/courses and study/courses/negotiated-learning

MSc Forensic Medical Sciences.  Cameron Forensic Medical Sciences, William Harvey Research Institute, Charterhouse Square, London


Diploma in Forensic Human Identification (DFHID)  www.afms.org.uk  

The Diploma is two years part time with the second year being devoted to a dissertation. On successful completion, the Diploma is awarded by the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Royal College of Physicians, London.

Certificate in Expert Witness Accreditation – Jointly by University of Cardiff Law School and Bond Solon  www.law.cf.ac.uk   and www.bondsolon.com

Workshop participation: There is a workshop introduction for Podiatrists to Forensic Podiatry and has been developed within the Forensic Podiatry unit of Sheffield  PCT. The course covers three days of close tuition and supervised practical work around Bare Footprints and Footwear. This workshop will help in gaining initial experience in some of the techniques involved in Forensic Podiatry.  For further information on this workshop please contact lois.hazelby@nhs.net

Forensic Science Society www.forensic-science-society.org.uk

International Association for Identification (IAI)   www.theiai.org

British Association for Human Identification (BAHID)   www.bahid.org

Academy of Expert Witnesses    www.academy-experts.org

Expert Witness Institute  (EWI)   www.ewi.org

Society of Expert Witnesses   www.sew.org


The following may also be able to provide assistance on:

Footprints: sarah.reel@ntlworld.com

Footwear: wes.vernon@yahoo.co,uk    

Forensic Gait Analysis: hdkelly@podiatry.co.uk



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