Forensic podiatry

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Forensic Podiatry is a sub-discipline of forensic science wherein knowledge of forensic medicine is used in conjunction with knowledge of the anatomy, function, deformities and diseases of the foot, ankle, lower extremities, and at times, the entire human body, to examine foot-related evidence in a legal and/or criminal investigation context.

Foot-related evidence can comprise different forms, including: static and dynamic foot impressions (i.e. footprints) in footwear, on surfaces, in substrates, on victims; partial or complete pedal remains; or as found in medical records or x-ray (often to identify unknown individuals). In the course of an investigation, forensic podiatrists may examine footprints, footwear, or analyze and compare the gait of unknown individuals.

In the early 1970s Dr. Norman Gunn DPM, a podiatric physician based in Canada was the first podiatrist to undertake case work. In the early 1990s Dr. John DiMaggio DPM began forensic podiatry casework in the US.

In September 2003, an organization was formed called the American Society of Forensic Podiatry. In July 2007, with the help of ASFP members, a forensic podiatry sub-committee was established within the structure of the International Association for Identification.

In 2013 a Forensic Podiatry group was started at New York College of Podiatric Medicine under the auspices of Dr. Bryan B. Kagan DPM. In addition to the group a formal class covering the aspects of Forensic Podiatry is being held at New York College of Podiatric Medicine open to their Podiatrist candidates. Students exit the class with an in depth knowledge of Forensic Podiatry and other legal knowledge applicable to current cases.

Also in 2013, a student forensic podiatry group was started at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine.

In 2016, a Forensic Podiatry Club was started at the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine, created by Elizabeth Ansert.

In the United Kingdom the term forensic podiatry is undertaken by specialized podiatrists, all of which are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. From 2009 group of forensic podiatrists have been involved with the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences who have developed a competency test for podiatrists specializing in this field. Other forensic podiatrists advise the College of Podiatry - this group set up in 2012 is the Forensic Podiatry Special Advisory Group.

What is Forensic Podiatry? In general terms Forensic podiatry is the application of podiatry knowledge to legal matters. More specifically, Forensic podiatry has been defined as: ”the application of sound and researched Podiatry knowledge and experience in forensic investigations, to show the association (or disassociation) 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 podiatrists is limited to those aspects of the body (or footwear) that require knowledge of the functioning foot. Forensic podiatry casework is usually undertaken at the request of law enforcement agencies, lawyers or by others where Forensic podiatry can assist in matters.

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 [CITATION NEEDED].

• 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) [FULL CITATION NEEDED] Forensic Gait Analysis can be used evidentially and for investigative purposes. Where a perpetrator has been recorded on CCTV or other video footage, the characteristics of the individual’s gait can assist in identification and by comparison to that of a known individual. This work can be completed by Forensic podiatrists and other experts in human function. Biometric gait identification systems are also undergoing development. [CITATION NEEDED]

• 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.

What training must I have to be a Forensic Podiatrist? The training and development required by Forensic podiatrists has been outlined within the International Association for Identification (https://www.theiai.org/disciplines/podiatry/podiatry_role_and_scope.pdf). Podiatrist is a protected title in many countries and therefore first and foremost, the successful completion of an approved course leading to eligibility to practice podiatry is required. In the UK this is by obtaining a university degree in Podiatric Medicine or Podiatry. You should also have 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 which include:

• Master’s Degree programmes (in the United Kingdom the University of Huddersfield hosts the first Master of Science in Forensic Podiatry worldwide)

• Forensic science degree programmes at Masters and Bachelor of Science

          degree levels.

• Postgraduate Diploma programmes in Forensic Human Identification (DFHID).

          Also, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Footwear courses.

• Expert witness training programmes including report writing; cross-examination;

          courtroom skills and law and procedure insofar as it is relevant to experts.

• Forensic Podiatry training workshops, seminars and conferences approved by the College of Podiatry.

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