prof. dr Jan Sehn

prof. dr Jan Sehn Professor Jan Sehn was born on 22 April 1909 in Tuszów. In 1933 he graduated in law from the Jagiellonian University and commenced judicial apprentice-ship. After passing the judicial exam in 1937, he became an associate judge in the investigative department of the District Court in Krakow, where he worked until the outbreak of WWII, fulfilling the duties of an investigating judge. When the German occupation ended, he was appointed investigating judge for “cases of exceptional significance”, which entailed, amongst other things, collecting evidence materials linked to Nazi war crimes committed on Polish soil and pursuing German war criminals. He was a member of the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, and Chairman of the District Commission in Krakow. His work in documenting Nazi crimes brought him recognition not only in Poland, but also abroad.

In 1949 he was awarded a doctorate in law on the basis of a dissertation entitled “Crime Scene Investigation”. His academic interest in this subject stemmed directly from his earlier practical experience in the field of investigation. Professor Jan Sehn was an advocate of close cooperation between all persons participating in the evidence chain - from the scene of the crime through the forensic laboratory to the courtroom, paying attention to the relationship and links between these participants, and also stressing the significance of the appropriate securing of traces and materials at the scene of the crime for further study. His academic life’s work was dominated by papers concerning evidence law, the theory of writing expert opinions, forensic traces and study of the scene of the crime. One of his most important publications, of fundamental significance to many generations of Polish forensic scientists, was the article “Criminalistic Traces”, published in 1960. The following treatises and articles should also be included amongst Sehn’s important papers: “The Theory and Practice of Evidence Procedure in Legal Proceedings”, “The Judge and the Expert”, “Evidence from the Expert in Legal Proceedings”.

From 1949 he lectured and organised training for law students, being a valued university lecturer. Furthermore, he established the Department of Criminalistics at the Law Faculty of the Jagiellonian University, being its first director and professor.

Whilst he was still an investigating judge, just after the end of the Second World War, he commenced co-operation with the Institute of Forensic Research, assuming the post of director in 1949. He adapted the activities of the institute to meet the practical needs of the administration of justice, broadening its scope to encompass a series of new disciplines. The institute is indebted to him for new organisational forms, its present headquarters and dynamic development in the late fifties and early sixties.

Professor Jan Sehn died suddenly on 12 December 1965 in Frankfurt-am-Main, on the eve of a trial of Auschwitz war criminals, which he had helped to prepare. Since 1966, the Institute of Forensic Research has been named after him.

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