In the past, forensic soil examination was a routine aspect of forensic trace evidence examinations. The apparent need for soil examinations then went through a period of decline and with it the capability of many forensic laboratories to carry out soil examinations. In more recent years, interest in soil examinations has been renewed due-at least in part-to soil examinations contributing to some high profile investigations. However, much of this renewed interest has been in organisations with a primary interest in soil and geology rather than forensic science.We argue the need to reinstate soil examinations as a trace evidence sub-discipline within forensic science laboratories and present a pathway to support this aim. An examination procedure is proposed that includes: (i) appropriate sample collection and storage by qualified crime scene examiners; (ii) exclusionary soil examinations by trace evidence scientists within a forensic science laboratory; (iii) inclusionary soil examinations by trace evidence scientists within a forensic science laboratory; and (iv) higher-level examination of soils by specialist soil scientists and palynologists. Soil examinations conducted by trace evidence scientists will be facilitated if the examinations are conducted using the instrumentation routinely used by these examiners. Hence, the proposed examination protocol incorporates instrumentation in routine use in a forensic trace evidence laboratory. Finally, we report on an Australian soil scene variability study and a blind trial that demonstrate the utility of the proposed protocol for the effective triage and management of soil samples by forensic laboratories.
- Evidence triage