‘Expert’ testimony to be put to the test

By politics.co.uk staff

‘Expert’ witnesses in trials should be subject to a reliability test, the law commission has recommended.

A test would reduce wrongful convictions, lead to fewer miscarriages of justice and restore public confidence in the criminal justice system, the commission said.

Expert evidence, especially scientific evidence, has a persuasive effect on juries and legal teams are increasingly prone to including it in their case.

The commission argued that there should be a pre-trial test to determine the reliability of the evidence.

Judges would be able to apply a clear test before the expert testified in court – checking the quality of the data the expert opinion is based on and the safety of their inferences.

The commission said the test has won support from senior judges, lawyers and forensic scientists.

They also argued it would benefit lawyers, who could interrogate expert evidence more accurately under the new guidance.

Professor David Ormerod, law commissioner for England and Wales, said the test would ensure expert evidence was “trustworthy”.

“Juries today expect expert evidence to be presented in criminal trials and expect it to be clear and capable of being relied on with confidence,” he said.

“The new test will ensure that experts and the evidence they deliver have been scrutinised appropriately and are trustworthy and reliable.

“Our test will go a long way to ensuring that, in future, the expert evidence used in criminal trials is safe, and the potential for miscarriages of justice greatly reduced.”