The nature of the casework conducted by The Forensic
Institute means that we are often examining issues
and techniques at the cutting edge of forensic
science, as well as assessing “standard techniques”
that have been used in prosecutions for some time.
The links on this page are intended to highlight
items of scientific and legal interest which have
featured recently in the courts, the media, academic
publications and other sources.
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NOTE ON LINKING TO THIS PAGE: Being on current matters, the content of this page may change, although the URL of the linked documents will not (insofar as we control them).
New Board Member for The Forensic Institute
We are delighted and proud to announce that in March 2013 Professor John Coggins OBE FRSE FSB has joined the Board of The Forensic Institute; John will have special responsibility for science development and our education programmes as well as being the principal TFI representative in the College of The Forensic Institute.
John is Emeritus Professor of Molecular Enzymology at the University of Glasgow and was formerly Vice Principal for the Faculties of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Clinical Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University. He is a member of the BBSRC Council and the Council of the Society of Biology and a former Vice President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He served as a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Committee and as Chairman of the UK Heads of Biological Science. He has a special interest in the knowledge transfer agenda and in science education and science communication. He is a Trustee of the Glasgow Science Centre, a member of the Progamme Board of Glasgow City of Science and a member of the External Advisory Committee of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.
Legal Aid and the Expert Witness
Professor Allan Jamieson of TFI spoke at a session at Bond Solon’s Expert Witness Conference in London on November 9th 2012. Allan has put a few thoughts on the topics on our web pages at:
Expert witness accreditation/certification: what, who, how?
Equality of Arms: does it exist in practice?”
There is also an article in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland.
"Does the Scottish justice system work to ensure that a defendant is working
“under conditions that do not place him or her at a substantial disadvantage”?
Insofar as the use of forensic experts, the answer is an emphatic no."
New Forensic Forum (FIRN Forum) launched
We are delighted to announce the launch of our new, free, public web forum to help us achieve our aim of better justice through better science. You are invited to join the FIRN Forum to learn from, initiate and contribute to the topics which will cover almost anything pertaining to the use of science in court.
You can visit the FIRN Forum here.
Good science, bad science. Does the Court know the difference?
The use and abuse of expert testimony in the legal system and the assessment of expert testimony has been a source of much publicity, debate, opinion, and proposed remedies. The most recent proposals for the UK emanate from the Law Commission and contained specific proposals regarding the admissibility of expert opinion. These proposals come close on the heels of a widening concern that both novel and apparently established forensic practices may not be as reliable as their disciples suggest; and indeed may not qualify, despite previous claims, as science.
This article from Professor Jamieson and Dr Bader discuss the increasing concern about the judicial understanding of science.
Data disclosure (and the Scottish Fingerprint Inquiry)
The recent report from the Fingerprint Inquiry looking at the case of Shirley McKie will have far-reaching implications not only for the practice of fingerprint identification, but for other forensic science practices. Our first comment welcomes the reviews key recomendations. Professor Jamieson is quoted in a newspaper article on this.
Our article in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland on disclosure of forensic files in Scotland sets out why we believe in full disclosure, now supported by the recommendations of the Fingerprint Inquiry.
An article in the Scotsman newspaper in July 2011 (the link to which has subsequently vanished) highlighted our campaign for complete disclosure of data in casework. For clarity we are making public our correspondence to Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr MacAskill, and his response. We have published an article setting out what we believe should be disclosed and why.
In the latter half of 2012, the Scottish Government introduced cuts to the Scottish Legal Aid budget. In November 2012, we wrote to the Herald newspaper to highlight the fact that the Scottish Police Services Agency (SPSA) charged defence solicitors for 'supervising' the visits of defence scientists. The visits were required because the SPSA charges £100 per hour for their scientist to watch the defence scientist and ensure that no notes were copied. The letter was published, and the newspaper highlighted the problem and supported our stance on full disclosure of forensic laboratory files.
In the same vein, we believe that the proper adminstration of justice, as well as the requirements of science, make disclosure of details of scientific experiments claimed to support expert opinions should be released to the scientific community for proper scrutiny. Professor Jamieson's letter to Nature mentions Low Copy Number DNA techniques, we now publish an open letter to Forensic Science International Genetics.
As the reliability of DNA profiling improves in specificity and sensitivity the issue confronting courts is increasingly how the DNA came to be on an item. An article in New Scientist magazine discusses the issue following recent high profile cases.
Professor Jamieson was involved in the far-reaching case of R v T at the Appeal Court of England & Wales challenging the basis of opinions on footwear mark evidence. The Appeal Court quashed T's conviction and concluded,
"It is, we hope, highly unlikely that the process by which expert evidence was formulated and adduced in this case will ever be repeated"
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