Author Topic: Forensic knotting  (Read 6231 times)

squarerigger

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Forensic knotting
« on: April 13, 2006, 12:43:49 AM »
Hi all,

Something that Knudenoggin raised on the Mission post got me to thinking about the many brilliant minds that we have out there.  Here is what he said:

Is there any active discussion of the methods
of forensic analysis for knotting?  (Courts have been accused of fostering "junk science",
and one might wonder at what knotting expertise has been seen there.)


I know that Geoffrey Budworth has produced a book on Knots and Crime and that Robert Chisnall has produced a book all about forensic knotting - in fact Bob's book is thought to be the ultimate book on forensic knotting, according to forensics experts to whom I have spoken or communicated.

My own experience has shown that forensic "knotting expert" is not an easily obtained qualification, because there is no formal training (and also not much call compared to, say, ballistics experts) and there is no criteria by which to judge.  I also know that people who are self-confessed "knotting experts" come from many walks of life, some with training in forensic methods, some with backgrounds in knots and some with neither.

What do you know about knotting experts and the methods used in forensic knotting analysis?  Are there really any experts out there, or do they have expertise and familiarity with one or two types of knots and knotting techniques and consider that there is not (sorry about the pun) much more to know?  Who is a self-proclaimed knotting expert (I have been called such by the courts, so I would really like to know!) and how did they come by their title?  What is their specific training?  Let us hear from you - PM or public - your choice.

Lindsey

Lasse_C

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2006, 02:30:48 PM »
Interesting question!
As you observe, there is no formal training or degree in this (we will have to wait a long time before we see a Ph D in Forensic Nodology). I have a feeling that this opens up for what we might cal the other side of the coin: Since there are no formal or academic criteria for being called an expert, anyone can call himself or herself this - or, on the other hand, anyone can try to disqualify an expert whose judgment is unwanted as "self-appointed".

I remember one question along this line being asked on this forum, when the issue was if it was possible to determine whether a certain knot had been tied by a left-handed person or not. (I have no memory of what came out of it, though...)

I suppose that who is to be considered an expert in the issue of forensic nodology (at least the term sounds academic!) might come down to the question being asked. Questions like if a left-handed or right-handed person tied a knot, how much force is needed to tighten a certain knot, etc. If I wanted an answer to these questions, and given the choice, I would trust an experienced knotter to any Professor in Forensic Medicine, who has not tied any knots (besides his shoe laces) since he was a Boy Scout!

LC

bazz

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2006, 04:50:14 PM »
How Do All ;D

Try the link below, either the site, or the gent whom owns it maybe of help in this topic.

http://www.forensic-knots.co.uk/

My own two cent's of bable would be no use in this topic so I will shut up before I say anything about something I have no idea about,lol.

I hope this is of worth.

Take care,
Barry ;)

squarerigger

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2006, 06:51:47 PM »
Thanks Barry,

I was thinking more of people who already read this forum responding as to their impressions of what constitutes an expert, than asking someone who calls themselves a forensic knotting expert (the gentleman also has a yacht broker business, is a licensed civil engineer and works on an average of 3 knotting cases per year - from his web-sites).  Maybe we should write and invite him to expose himself on our forum?  I don't think anyone worth their salt would want to do that.  Maybe he has some clues as to methods though...

Lasse, I think you have a very good point - if the individual can explain the forces behind the knot, knows the structure of the knot and can back up the opinion with appropriate reference material - who cares?  I guess that makes it somewhat like one psychiatrist Vs another - who has more charisma/experience/believability in court? :o

Still, the methods question that Knudenoggin posed remains unanswered - what methods are used and how are they appropriate?  Is the question aimed at finding what other knotters would find acceptable in a case or what training should and could be offered or expected in Lasse's putative PhD in Nodology?  There I go with more questions - thanks for your answers Lasse and Bazz!

Lindsey

knudeNoggin

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2006, 08:18:11 PM »
Quote
Try the link below, either the site, or the gent whom owns it maybe of help in this topic.

http://www.forensic-knots.co.uk/

Hmmm, to be frank, I am not overwhelmed with confidence based on the information
at this site.  Although, as has been noted, there is not an established course of action
leading to the achieving of credentials for forensic judgement.
Still, when I read on the site that "whilst the well-known Ashley Book of Knots
has nearly 3,000 knots and knot shapes
", I am reminded of the strong reprimand
against such mindless counting (often just a parroting of others' words), and that
far fewer actual knots are contained in ABOK.  (It is unlikely that
forensic analysis will hinge on some sort of button knot or sennit!)

The conclusions leave me wondering at the detailed analysis; to conclude that one
who has some knotting skill is immune to tying in an unskilled manner is not going
to pass muster as much conclusive with me.

*knudeNoggin*

DerekSmith

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2006, 06:39:23 PM »
Innocence or guilt today is often based on probability.

Even DNA evidence is a matter of probability and if the odds are stacked against you then you are found guilty.

On that basis, the IGKT could well provide a service of creating a database of knot usage - who uses what knots, what local variants exist etc.

A questionaire to all members, what knot do they most frequently use and for what.  How did they learn it.  What knots do they use in their profession.  Likewise the IGKT could send questionaires to the guilds of selected professions to ask the same questions.  The IGKT would then be performing the social service of producing a database of popular knot usage for use by Police and forensic analysts.

squarerigger

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2006, 11:04:57 PM »
Hello Derek,

One of the issues that I have with any kind of database is this - GIGO.  It can only be as good as its creator and, because you are suggesting multiple creators, this makes for an impossibly large set of agreement and consistency.  Such a database would have problems in being created or even being useable by police or forensic analysts/scientists because the knots tied and used would first have to be identified by name or a consistent description.  If the analysts know nothing of the naming or description, how do they access any database?  Even if they know the name of some or many knots, how do they know which one is present, if it has been collapsed or faired or even made in some different way?  If they have a series of photos to look at, what do they know of chirality, wet/dry conditions, over-stress and under-stress, faired or tied differently, etc., etc.?

As to knot usage, why would such a database be useful?  It would be akin to giving the analyst the ABOK and saying "it's in there somewhere" wouldn't it?  Do you see the number of uses that simple knots can have?  What of those uses that are not included?  I do not wish to decry your noble efforts, but this is simply not something that can be achieved either easily or quickly - no low-hanging fruit there!  What is needed instead is a method of HOW to analyze knots, not which knots are present.

Anyone calling themselves a knotting specialist/analyst/expert should be able to identify the knot.  It is the method of analyzing the knot that matters, so that all knots are analyzed in a consistent manner - such things as the handedness, the tension applied, any twist applied and the implications for each.  Those would be a starting point for beginning a description of methods, such that each knot could be analyzed in a consistent manner.

What is also needed is an agreed definition of the twists and turns that lines and knots make and the other external features and forces that make the knot work.  Such a definition exists for mathematical knots (which are, by necessity all made as loops) but those are relatively simple knots used to describe particle, plane or solids actions and interactions.  We have no such accepted definition in knot-tying - yes, many people use a similar language or term, but there is no universal or even consistent definition, let alone one accepted by all.  Then again, all courts have different standards and methods of accepting evidence and expert testimony, so maybe it doesn't matter?!

With a definition, one could begin to assemble a database of those terms as they apply to various named knots in some consistent publication, probably ABOK, but where do you go from there?  I think your idea is noble, as i said before, but I would ask whether or not you would feel that such a task could be achieved in several lifetimes?  Ashley took eleven years to compile his book, which is necessarily incomplete, and he did not work alone (yes, he wrote it himself, but he culled the information from many others).

I feel that trying to arrive at a suitable and accepted definition of knot forms which, with suitable diagrams and supporting corroboration, could be used as the basis for a beginning definition of knots would be a good first task.  Good luck with your search!

Lindsey

DerekSmith

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Re: Forensic knotting
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2006, 09:18:53 PM »
Quote

One of the issues that I have with any kind of database is this - GIGO.  It can only be as good as its creator and, because you are suggesting multiple creators, this makes for an impossibly large set of agreement and consistency.

Hi Lindsey,

You raise some excellent points, paticularly GIGO.  I totally agree with your comment, that is why I proposed that information be collected FROM multiple sources and that it be verified, compiled and recorded by an acknowledged and reputable body (such as possibly the IGKT), not the other way around as you seem to have drawn from my post.  Notwithstanding the IGKT may not have any interest in carrying out such work or the members may not wish for funds to be used in this manner, the venture would nonetheless provide a base of quality information about today's use of knots, and the body generating it would gain a level of elevation / authority within the world of knotting expertise.

Quote
If the analysts know nothing of the naming or description, how do they access any database?

The information database would not be of value to layperson analysts, but it would be a valuable source of information to analysts with a substantial background of knotting expertise and forensic skills.

Quote
As to knot usage, why would such a database be useful?  It would be akin to giving the analyst the ABOK and saying "it's in there somewhere" wouldn't it?

I did not propose making a list of knot usage, but a list of knots in use.  The two are in fact opposites of oneanother.

Knowing what knot was involved in a crime, the database would allow the forensic researcher to establish a list on probability basis of all of the groups of people who regularly use that knot today.  Furthermore, if a particular industry utilises a particular variant of the knot, people likely to have those skills could be highlighted.

The list would NOT contain the vast majority of knots recorded in ABOK because only a tiny subset of the many thousands of possible knots are ever used on a regular basis.  Where they are used however, the subtleties used within any given trade or geographical area would be catalogued and could prove critical in helping the forensic analyst narrow the field of investigation or increase the probability of demonstrating guilt or innocence.

Quote
I think your idea is noble, as i said before, but I would ask whether or not you would feel that such a task could be achieved in several lifetimes?

Certainly for an individual or a small group of individuals you have a valid point.  However, engaging the input from many groups gleaning information from many many individuals will enable to data to be compiled relatively rapidly.  Engaging many groups with vested interest, not only makes the task possible, it also binds those groups to the final product preventing the formation of 'competetive databases'.  Such a task however, would require the innitiative and coordination to come from some primary body generally perceived as the spokesbody for the trade.  For me the IGKT would logically be that innitiating and coordinating body.  However, although the IGKT are ideally placed to host the role and it fits well with the Guild Objectives, it may not meet with members approval that resource be driven away from present styles of utilising that resource, and it may not be a project that the present ruling body deem to be of social or guild value.