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CBA Lecture: Forensic Science Service, a new code

Wednesday 22nd November

18.00 – 19.00


Introduction: Charlotte Newell KC (5KBW) – CBA Education Joint Chair.

Speaker: Dr. Carole McCartney, University of Leicester

Speaker: Dr. Natalie Wortley, University of Northumbria

Expert Evidence and Forensic Science in the Criminal Justice System

Expert evidence, and particularly forensic science evidence, has faced sustained scrutiny over the last 20 years. The role of Forensic Science Regulator was established in 2007, tasked with ensuring the reliability of forensic science in the criminal justice system. In 2014, following publication of the Law Commission’s report Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings (Law Com No. 325, 2011), amendments to the Criminal Practice Directions encouraged courts actively to enquire into reliability factors. Yet peak scientific organisations and Parliamentary committees have continued to express concerns that forensic science evidence is admitted too readily and with insufficient scrutiny.

This lecture will explore recent legal and procedural developments relating to the admissibility of expert opinion, including: the Criminal Practice Directions 2023; the Forensic Science Regulator Act 2021 and associated Code of Practice (in force from 2/10/23); and national guidance for Streamlined Forensic Reporting. We will explore the potential impact of these changes in practice and discuss what advocates can do to encourage appropriate focus on the reliability of expert opinion.

Carole McCartney is Professor of Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Leicester. She is currently a Commissioner on the APPG Westminster Commission on Forensic Science. Previously at Northumbria University, where she established the Science and Justice Research Interest Group, Carole has been researching issues around criminal evidence and forensic science for over twenty years, and has written on miscarriages of justice, DNA and biometrics, forensic science and criminal justice more widely.

Natalie Wortley is Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria University, where she teaches and researches criminal law, evidence and procedure. She has published widely and spoken at numerous national and international conferences on topics in these areas. She is now a regular lecturer on criminal evidence for the Judicial College and co-author of the Crime eLetter. Natalie is also a member of the Criminal Law Review commentary team and a member of the Commentary Board of Criminal Law Week, frequently commenting on cases involving expert evidence and forensic science.

This lecture will be recorded.


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