“TMFI is here to stay!”

Written by  Margot Krijnen Friday, 01 January 2010 00:00

The Maastricht Forensic Institute, a unique combination of forensic expertise

In May 2008 The Maastricht Forensic Institute (TMFI) was established as a result of close cooperation between Maastricht University and DSM Resolve. The primary goal is to improve the quality of forensic expertise. In the near future, TMFI will grow into a top quality forensic institute providing expertise on forensic psychology and psychiatry, legal psychology, DNA-analysis, chemical and material analyses, digital technology and forensic speech research. Ton Broeders, Professor of Criminalistics at Maastricht University Faculty of Law, and Director of TMFI, is proud to talk about “his” unique institute.

What is the position of TMFI? Why was it established in addition to the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI)?

“In Maastricht, we are going to do something completely out of the box. First, TMFI is going to be one of the few university-based forensic institutes in the world. Everybody who works at TMFI - well, almost everybody - is going to do cases, but is also teaching and doing fundamental research. This is new in the forensic world, where most forensic investigators are more like civil servants who do not participate in the academic community and, more importantly, in academic discussions. Second, this is going to be the first broad forensic institute in the world. We do not just have technical scientists, working on DNA, physical traces, and the like. We also have a large contingent of forensic psychologists, legal psychologists, criminologists and linguists.”

Exactly why did Maastricht University decide to set up TMFI?

“The Maastricht University Faculty of Law has always had a strong interest in the position of the defence. Think of people like Ties Prakken, Taru Spronken, Gerard Mols, who are all (former) defence lawyers. And of course UM boasts several leading experts in psychology and law, such as Hans Crombag, Harald Merckelbach and Peter van Koppen. Then, there is TMFI’s Corine de Ruiter (Forensic Psychology), who makes a unique contribution to the expertise we can offer. All existing forensic research and education at Maastricht University is brought together in TMFI.”

What education and research programmes does TMFI offer?

“A good example of combined research and education is the project ‘Gerede Twijfel’ (Reasonable Doubt), run by the section of Legal Psychology. At the request of a convicted person, his lawyer or another person involved, students - under the supervision of TMFI staff - investigate a case that could be a miscarriage of justice. The result is a report of findings that could lead to further legal action, such as a revision procedure in the Supreme Court.”

“We also develop and teach master's programmes, such as the unique new two-year Master in Forensic Psychology. And we are working on two new initiatives. One is a one-year international master programme in Legal Psychology with the best professors from the best European universities. The second is the highly successful Master in Forensics, Criminology and Legal Practice, which we will also be offering in English next year.”

How has TMFI done in the first 1.5 years?

“In many fields we have been very productive, but in some areas, notably DNA, the going has been tough, because the services of the NFI, a division of the Ministry of Justice, are free. We received a start-up subsidy from the European Fund for Regional Development and the Province of Limburg, but eventually we will have to cover our own expenses. From 2010, there will be a pilot programme offering the prosecution and the police funding that will enable them to hire forensic experts. Then we will be able to show what we can do!”

What about the future?

“TMFI is here to stay! Our challenge is to show we can substantially affect the quality of forensic expertise and forensic reporting in the Netherlands. The new legislation should create the conditions to do this.”

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