Court to weigh dubious evidence | Law

Court to weigh dubious evidence

Director of Postgraduate Research, Gary Edmond comments in The Australian, 23 May 2014, on the High Court's consideration of setting limits on the use of questionable scientific evidence in courtrooms.

Gary Edmond, a legal professor at the University of NSW, said body mapping was one of many identification techniques including those used to match bite marks, ballistics, soil, voices and foot, shoe and tyre prints that had never been validated.

He said such techniques were routinely used in courts in ways that no scientific study could support. "The specialised knowledge in this case is the interpretation of images," he said.'

“Yes, he’s a highly qualified professor of anatomy, but the question is, how do you interpret low-quality CCTV images where the person’s wearing a disguise? We don’t know whether he can do it or how well he can do it.”

He said such techniques could be evaluated, but that had not happened.

“We’ve been allowing these people in and we get the same problem in case after case,” he said.

Professor Edmond said research on unfamiliar face-matching had shown it to be very error-prone, and those with experience, such as anatomists and passport officers, performed no better than ordinary people.

He said courts needed to read the need for reliability into specialised knowledge, as they had done in other jurisdictions.

“The danger is that the evidence will be misunderstood by the jury and that may lead to wrongful convictions,” he said.

Subscribers to The Australian can read the full article here.