Judges get helping hand from courtroom science primers

Easy-to-understand guides to help judges handling scientific evidence are being introduced in UK courts in a unique partnership between the judiciary and science academies.

The first two cover DNA fingerprinting and techniques identifying people from the way they walk from CCTV and others are planned on the topics of statistics and the physics of vehicle collisions.

Each primer is a concise document presenting a plain English, authoritative account of the technique in question, as well as considering its limitations and the challenges associated with its application.

They have been written by leading scientists and working judges and peer reviewed by legal practitioners, all of whom volunteered their time.

Supreme Court Justice, Lord Hughes, Chair of the Primers Steering Group said: ‘These are the first in a series of primers designed to be working tools for judges. They aim to tackle the agreed and uncontroversial basis underlying scientific topics, which crop up from time to time in courts. The objective is to provide a judge with the scientific baseline from which any expert dispute in a particular case can begin.’

The project is a collaboration between the judiciary, the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The primers are available to download on the website of the Royal Society and hard copies will be distributed to courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland through the Judicial College, the Judicial Institute, and the Judicial Studies Board for Northern Ireland.

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