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Title: Fire investigation road maps and decision trees to assist fire causation identification and improve arson prosections
Author: Mansi, Peter
Awarding Body: London South Bank University
Current Institution: London South Bank University
Date of Award: 2012
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One of the lowest prosecuted crimes in western civilisation is arson. Defence ‘experts’ may be able to discredit a prosecution charge by demonstrating that there are alternative causes for the fire that their defendant was being accused of setting, which were not investigated thoroughly, nor disproved. Unlike many other crimes, a fire may not be detected as arson until the final stages of an investigation, whereas with most other crimes, there is an obvious victim of a crime in the early stages of an investigation. The investigation of fires can be extremely complex. Fire investigators need to ensure that they have conducted their investigation using a systematic and rigorous methodology so that their findings can with-stand any challenges. At the beginning of this project, it was identified that there was a fundamental lack of a systematic methodology to investigate the cause of fires and a need for one to be developed. To address this need, a series of 23 Fire Investigation Road Maps (FIRMs) have been designed, developed and tested at real fire scenes and also during cold case fire investigation reviews to assist a competent fire investigator conduct a thorough, rigorous and systematic investigation to determine the origin and cause of a fire. It is the cause of the fire, that being the ignition source, first combustible material to become ignited and the mechanism that brought the two together which will determine whether the fire was started accidentally or deliberately. The FIRMs are based on the application of the Scientific Method and are divided into groups and categories to ensure a rigorous and thorough process is carried out during an investigation. Some examples of applications of the FIRMs during fire investigations when working with the police, forensic scientists and insurance investigators are the Bethnal Green Road two fire fighter fatalities; ‘Operation Refit’, reviewing the murder of Wayne Trotter; the Iron Mountain data storage depot in East London and the fire in the high rise flats, Lakanal, where six occupants lost their lives. The outcomes of these examples, and many other fire investigations, when applying the FIRMs have demonstrated to the relevant authorities, including several Coroners, that a complete and accurate fire investigation has been conducted. Utilising the FIRMs during a fire investigation will benefit society by enabling existing data to be gathered, documented, analysed and made available for many interested parties, such as Coroners, civil and criminal prosecutors or used to identify any fire safety issues which need addressing. The accurate identification of the cause of a fire, with supporting forensic evidence, will assist the courts in making decisions as to whether the fire was accidental, deliberate or the result of a design or system failure. In the circumstances of deliberate fires, the FIRMs will support any subsequent prosecutions and help increase the low arson prosecution rates that currently exist.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available