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Can forensic science ever be understood in the courtroom?

Citation

Howes, LM, Can forensic science ever be understood in the courtroom?, 5th International Conference on Evidence Law and Forensic Science (ICELFS), 20-23 July 2015, Adelaide (2015) [Conference Extract]

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Abstract

This presentation considers the effectiveness of communication about forensic science in the criminal justice system from the perspectives of Australian practitioners. Twenty-seven case-reporting forensic scientists (forensic biologists or trace evidence examiners) and twelve legal practitioners (Supreme Court judges, Crown prosecutors, and criminal defence barristers) participated in semi-structured interviews about their experiences of the communication. Forensic scientists and legal practitioners reported a number of impediments to communication between them, both inherent in the system and in the ways that they can enact their roles within it. A high level of technicality of language and limited case-specific detail made reliance on expert reports a challenge for legal practitioners in various roles. Although forensic scientists were reportedly willing to clarify reports for criminal defence barristers as for prosecutors, there was low uptake of this opportunity amongst defence barristers. Participants from all groups reported that communication at pre-trial conferences facilitated both leading and presenting expert evidence effectively during a trial. However, while participants concurred that making forensic science comprehensible to the judge and jury was a shared responsibility, forensic scientistsí opportunities to explain clearly in court were impacted by the questions asked of them by lawyers. Implications for practice are discussed in terms of ensuring that forensic science is understood well, presented clearly, and used effectively in criminal trials.

Item Details

Item Type:Conference Extract
Keywords:expert evidence, legal practitioners, forensic scientists, communication
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Law
Research Field:Criminal Law and Procedure
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the Law
Objective Field:Criminal Justice
Author:Howes, LM (Dr Loene Howes)
ID Code:105198
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:Social Sciences
Deposited On:2015-12-14
Last Modified:2015-12-21
Downloads:0

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