Merseyside Police and LJMU partner to deliver pioneering masters course
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Merseyside Police and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) have teamed up to combat the use of deepfakes, voice manipulation, face-editing and other reality-blurring scams in the UK.
Police, lawyers and judges have seen an increase in public accessibility to an array of new technologies and software, and Merseyside Police recognised the challenge this could pose to securing justice.
LJMU - in joint collaboration with Merseyside Police and working closely with software providers and respected industry professionals - has created a Master’s degree in Audio and Video Forensics to help upskill current and future law enforcement practitioners in the arts of digital media investigation processing and verification.
Colin Robinson, Senior lecturer and Course Leader at LJMU School of Engineering said: “It is a question of skills, and for that reason, we are offering new training for professionals on how to spot and handle manipulated sound and images.
“Take the case of a recent custody battle in Dubai when one partner faked the voice of the other to discredit their case.
“When experts examined the recording they found it had been doctored to include words not used by the client. The software used in this and similar deceptions is easy to use and widely available and that of course creates a problem unless the expertise of the forensic services 'keeps up'."
Dr Karl Jones, LJMU School of Engineering Subject Head and Media Forensics researcher, added: “Manipulated video or audio recordings, sometimes referred to as deep fakes, risk becoming an increasing issue for police, the Courts and other law enforcement agencies.
“They present a real challenge and one we are facing head-on with this training.”
The MSc – the first of its kind in the Europe – is the result of 18 months of close collaborative design work between LJMU, the Digital Media Team at Merseyside Police and experts from the Police Forensic Service, who report an rise in investigations requiring sound and visual evidence processing.
Chief Superintendent Paul Court, who leads Digital Policing for Merseyside Police, said: “We are delighted to have been able to work so closely with LJMU staff to develop this course. Evidence across the country is regularly being sourced from CCTV, bodycams, mobile phones, smart doorbells and more, which often has audio evidence attached.
"When you take into account that there are currently around 3,000 different ways for that CCTV and audio to be encoded and stored, it is imperative that our skilled investigators now have academic training and professional expertise ensure every investigative opportunity is exploited. This collaboration is yet another example of our work in accelerating digital innovation across Merseyside to ensure we keep communities safe.”
The new course, which was recently praised by the Chair of the College of Policing Lord Nick Herbert, has both September and January intakes.
Students and practitioners can work towards three qualifications, a PG Cert, PG Dip and Full MSc via part time predominantly online study. New CPD variations of course modules are in the pipeline to ensure support and training is available to all ranks and disciplines.