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FOE08

Forensic Evidence

NZ $55.00
incl GST
Dr John Buckleton Craig Ruane
Dr John Buckleton
Principal Scientist
Environment and Scientific Research
Auckland
Craig Ruane
Barrister
Christchurch

Published: 23 September, 2008
Pages: 87

Introduction

The process… starts upon the supposition that when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. It may be that several explanations remain, in which case one tries test after test until one or other of them has a convincing amount of support.

Sherlock Holmes – The Blanched Soldier

One of the major problems facing criminal defence lawyers is the disparity in resources between prosecution and defence. The prosecution will normally have the resources of the State behind it, whilst the defence will often be working at a disadvantage, both financially and with availability to expertise.

This is particularly so where scientific evidence is concerned. The majority of forensic scientists are employed by the police or other law enforcement agencies, or by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), the successor to the DSIR. As one of the common prerequisites for qualification as an expert is experience in the field, those who are employed by the prosecution agencies will generally have far more practical experience than those outside the prosecution system. In a number of areas, the only experts may be those employed by “prosecution” agencies.

This will depend on the area of expertise, but the majority of those with experience in the areas of DNA analysis, toxicology, fingerprints or the other areas of expertise commonly seen in the criminal arena will be from the Crown side of the house. There are some experts who have left the police or ESR, and set up in private practice, but they are few. As time goes on their levels of expertise may fade, or become dated.

Except in those rare cases where a suspect will seek legal advice at an early stage, most defence lawyers will be faced with an accused who has already been charged with an offence. Counsel will not have the opportunity of examining, first hand, the evidence which the prosecution proposes to use before it is collected or removed from the scene. By the time the defence lawyer gets to the file, much of the evidence has been collected and is well on the way to be being analysed.

The purpose of this seminar is to provide part of the foundation upon which the theory of the case can be erected. Those attending the seminar will not become forensic scientists but will, we trust, be given the tools with which they can examine the evidence to be tendered by forensic scientists, to consider its importance and implications, and the resources which will enable counsel to deal effectively with forensic scientific evidence.

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