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Communicating forensic scientific expertise: an analysis of expert reports and corresponding testimony in Tasmanian courts

Reid, CA and Howes, LM ORCID: 0000-0002-5656-6121 2020 , 'Communicating forensic scientific expertise: an analysis of expert reports and corresponding testimony in Tasmanian courts' , Science and Justice, vol. 60, no. 2 , pp. 108-119 , doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2019.09.007.

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Abstract

Forensic criminology examines the use of forensic science in society. Justice can be hampered, for example, if the communication of forensic scientific findings is unclear or misleading, even if unintentionally. Although various recommendations guide the communication of forensic science, it is unclear whether they are reflected in practice. This study explored the communication of forensic biology in 10 cases of major crimes against the person heard in the Tasmanian Supreme Court, where the standard practice is to issue brief summary reports in the first instance. The content of expert reports and corresponding testimony was analysed to determine its adherence to recommendations outlined in standards, practice notes, and research. While reports were found to be very brief, testimony elaborated on all major elements. Mostly elicited by the prosecution, some elements were volunteered by expert witnesses, or raised by defence. Overall, expert evidence in courts—but not reports (due to the use of brief summary reports)—largely adhered to recommendations. Further research is needed to determine the prevalence and effectiveness of alternative approaches to communication that were identified in certain cases.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Reid, CA and Howes, LM
Keywords: forensic science, forensic studies, expert reports, expert testimony
Journal or Publication Title: Science and Justice
Publisher: Forensic Science Soc
ISSN: 1355-0306
DOI / ID Number: 10.1016/j.scijus.2019.09.007
Copyright Information:

© 2019 The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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