Admitting scientific expert evidence in the UK: reliability challenges and the need for revised criteria – proposing an Abridged Daubert

Date09 February 2015
Published date09 February 2015
AuthorJane Ireland,John Beaumont
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Forensic practice
Invited paper
Admitting scientific expert evidence in the
UK: reliability challenges and the need for
revised criteria – proposing an Abridged
Jane L. Ireland and John Beaumont
Jane L. Ireland is a Professor of
Forensic Psychology, based at
School of Psychology,
University of Central
Lancashire, Preston, UK and
Ashworth Research Centre
(ARC), High Secure Services,
Mersey Care NHS Trust,
Maghull, UK.
Professor John Beaumont is a
Legal Consultant and
Freelance Writer, based at
(formerly) Law School, Leeds
Metropolitan University, Leeds,
Purpose – Expert evidence is a contentious area with a number of high profile cases highlighting unreliable
scientificexpert evidence, leading to appeals and acquittals. The purpose of this paper is to argue for
improvement in the assessment of expert evidence reliability to avoid such difficulties.
Design/methodology/approach – A review of the area focused on the history of developing legal criteria
for admitting scientificevidence. It examined the benefits and difficulties of approaches, and proposes
an amendment to criteria for increased transparency and evidenced decision making.
Findings – The review indicated a range of difficulties with expertevidence admissibility, including
inconsistency,an over-focus on narrow elements of evidence, difficulties in interpretation, and the potential
to unfairly restrict evidence. An alternative to current approaches is proposed. This takes the form of a
two-stage approach to consider whether or not to admit expert evidence. It comprises a preparation and an
examination stage. The former seeks to critically review the evidence and define its nature. The latter applies
two sets of criteria; a Daubert application for generally accepted physical sciences, and proposes an
Abridged-Daubert for novel and social/behavioural sciences. Also proposed is increased involvement by
experts in critically reviewing their own evidence and in providing statements of limitations.
Practical implications – The paper concludes by outlining the importance of developing such an
approach for the UK legal system. It focuses on the application of specific criterion which could assist
both Courts and witnesses to evaluate the quality of evidence prior to submission by accounting for the
nature of the opinion evidence provided.
Originality/value – The paper outlines a practical approach to examining evidence which has benefit to
practitioners and advocates when opinion evidence is outlined.
Keywords Daubert, Evidence reliablity, Expert witnesses, Abridged-Daubert,Reliability challenges,
UK legal system
Paper type Viewpoint
Imagine being convicted on the basis of ear-print evidence for an offence you have not
committed, even when such evidence is known to be unreliable and not accepted by the wider
scientific community. Alternatively, consider being placed in prison for murder on the sole basis
of a dog detecting your scent after an article of your clothing has been placed in a coffee can.
Or what of being accused and placed on remand for allegedly bringing a giraffe and elephant
into a Sunday school as part of suspected ritual abuse of children; later killing these animals and
hanging the children upside down from chandeliers on the (incorrect) basis that children as
young as three or four have intact memories and are not suggestible? These may sound like
DOI 10.1108/JFP-03-2014-0008 VOL. 17 NO. 1 2015, pp. 3-12, CEmerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2050-8794

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT