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 8: Expert evidence law reform in Ireland

Liz Heffernan


This chapter explores the law and practice of expert evidence in the Republic of Ireland. The common law exerts a dominant influence in Irish criminal trials. In the absence of legislation, the courts have grappled with the practical difficulties of assessing the reliability and probative value of expert evidence in fields such as fingerprinting, DNA profiling, psychiatry, and questioned document analysis. A piecemeal, pragmatic judicial approach to expert evidence has prompted calls for reform. However, the Irish Law Reform Commission has not been persuaded that Ireland should follow the lead of other common law countries by introducing a Daubert-style admissibility test. The chapter also considers the procedural rights of the defence in relation to expert evidence, with reference to relevant provisions of the Irish Constitution and the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR. In conclusion, the chapter advocates a flexible, contextualised judicial approach, but one firmly focussed on ensuring that expert evidence adduced in trials is actually reliable, and therefore genuinely relevant, to the proceedings.

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