A tale of two approaches - the NAS report and the Law Commission consultation paper on forensic science

Rhonda M Wheate, Allan Jamieson

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Recent publications from the National Academy of Science (USA) and the Law Commission (UK) provide an interesting contrast in approach to well documented and historic problems with the use of "scientific" evidence in legal proceedings. The NAS recommends a thorough assessment of the scientific bases of forensic science, to discern and improve the validity of the science before it can be considered suitable for court purposes. The UK approach more tentatively examines the legal admissibility of forensic science, leaving aside the more fundamental questions as to the inherent unreliability of the evidence. Drawing upon the American report and current experience in the UK, this paper proposes a more robust admissibility regime in the UK, including recognition and acceptance of the different roles of the prosecution and defence expert; more thorough and less combative disclosure by the prosecution; wider availability of validation data; and greater legal and research support for the thorough review of the "science" underlying forensic science.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Commentary on Evidence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2009


  • forensic
  • science
  • expert
  • evidence
  • validation
  • accreditation
  • opinion

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