Professor Fiona Raitt’s comments (...) about the recent Forensic Science Society conference in Edinburgh serve as a timely reminder to the decision-makers in our justice system that all is not well in relation to the quality of expert forensic evidence being presented in our courts.
As a result of this, miscarriages of justice are a real and present danger.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that, in respect of expert evidence, many decision-makers within our justice system refuse to admit that “the emperor has no clothes on”. Fortunately, there are those like Professor Raitt who are speaking out and challenging the fiction that nothing is wrong.
My daughter, Shirley McKie, was nearly committed to prison because of false fingerprint evidence and, sadly, many of the lessons learned in the subsequent inquiry are in danger of being forgotten or ignored.
The innocent are being deemed guilty and the guilty deemed innocent, because of a failure to properly collect, examine, evaluate, and present forensic and other expert evidence.
In the “theatre” of our adversarial system, prosecution and defence lawyers often fail to ensure that only the best expert evidence is presented and effectively challenged in court. Many judges remain implacably opposed to acting as “gatekeepers” in respect of complex scientific testimony, preferring to leave often uncomprehending juries to work it out for themselves.
At the conference, both the justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland expressed their wish that Scotland leads the way in matters forensic. Let’s hope this signals action within our justice system.
[As I commented on this blog on Monday: “The Lockerbie case provides textbook examples of unreliable forensic science and unreliable forensic scientists. Here are a few relevant names: Thurman, Hayes, Feraday.”]