Forensic Science Evidence and Expert Witness Testimony
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Forensic Science Evidence and Expert Witness Testimony

Reliability through Reform?

Edited by Paul Roberts and Michael Stockdale

Forensic science evidence plays a pivotal role in modern criminal proceedings. Yet such evidence poses intense practical and theoretical challenges. It can be unreliable or misleading and has been associated with miscarriages of justice. In this original and insightful book, a global team of prominent scholars and practitioners explore the contemporary challenges of forensic science evidence and expert witness testimony from a variety of theoretical, practical and jurisdictional perspectives. Chapters encompass the institutional organisation of forensic science, its procedural regulation, evaluation and reform, and brim with comparative insight.
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Chapter 3: Admissibility, reliability and common law epistemology

Tony Ward


This chapter argues that in some circumstances expert evidence should be admissible even though the validity of the scientific methods on which it is based has not been established. Such evidence should be admitted where there are good reasons to believe it has some probative value, forms part of a larger matrix of evidence, and the uncertainty resulting from its lack of validation is clearly acknowledged in the expert’s evidence-in-chief. As well as being supported by current legal doctrine this approach accords with the common law’s underlying ‘civic epistemology’ – the practices by which the polity determines what counts as publicly shared knowledge – and in particular with the ‘Davie principle’ by which scientific experts are obliged to make their knowledge claims accessible to, and assessable by, lay factfinders.

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