As we were all settling down for the morning session, I was joined by Carol Westron, which was a nice surprise.
The morning session consisted of authors Pauline Rowson and Kerry Wilkinson (M.R. Hall being sadly unable to attend) with crime experts Dr Alex Allan (a forensic toxicologist) and Mick Ellis (a drugs expert from Hampshire Police), as always beginning with everyone being asked why they'd chosen their particular speciality.
Pauline introduces the panel:
Interestingly, both experts had gone into their careers through getting offered a job they'd applied for with no real feeling of it being a vocation, although Mick did say that he went into the Drugs Squad because it was an easy area in which to prove a crime and obtain a conviction and he liked the feeling of reward that came with getting good results. Kerry, meanwhile, had been a sports journalist writing novels as a hobby and self-publishing them until they proved popular and he was offered a deal by a major publisher. He commented that his main character in the books isn't convinced that police work is her vocation either.
An interesting discussion on 'smart drugs', 'legal highs' and other substances of abuse which are currently lower in the media's profiles led on to Mick talking about surveillance, which isn't as glamorous as some might think. Alex and Mick then talked about the processes and difficulties involved in proving which toxins were used to kill a victim, especially relating to timescales for tests being much longer than those depicted on TV.
After that came some excellent audience questions and some very revealing answers before we broke for lunch (with time to get my book acquisition signed by Kerry, who was wearing an awesome T-shirt) and to take a look at the various displays around the room, including one set up by the forensic science course at South Downs College:
There were also displays from the Hampshire Police Fingerprint Bureau Team and the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, Portsmouth University (complete with maggots and flies). Having looked at those, Carol and I headed off to find lunch, stopping to talk to the lovely Natasha Cooper on the way.
The afternoon session consisted of authors Pauline Rowson, Natasha Cooper and Sharon Bolton with crime experts Sergeant Tony Birr (the Hampshire Police Marine Unit) and Brian Chappell (formerly a DCI with New Scotland Yard and now Lecturer at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth):
I was particularly interested in the details of the marine unit, even though boats aren't particularly my thing,and once again the audience posed some very thoughtful questions and got a lot of interesting answers.
One final point of note was that Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes are still firm favourites amongst the crime experts (even those who don't otherwise watch or read crime fiction).