Forensic Science and Miscarriages of Justice: Some Lessons from Comparative Experience
26 Pages Posted: 21 May 2010
Date Written: 2009
This paper provides a critical assessment of the National Research Council’s (NRC) 2009 report in light of comparative experience in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It suggests that the NRC’s proposals for federal regulation of the forensic sciences are more appropriate for a unitary state than a federal system. The NRC report could have been strengthened by examining the British experience with a forensic regulator and a 2008 report on forensic pathology in the Canadian province of Ontario. The Ontario pathology report has already produced tangible reforms to the practice of forensic pathology within coroners’ systems while the NRC unrealistically calls for the abolition of all coroner systems. The dangers of superficial reforms are examined, including a Canadian example of published research being misapplied in a manner that contributed to a wrongful conviction. Finally, the NRC’s pessimistic conclusions about judicial exclusion of unreliable forensic science are contrasted with recent and more optimistic reform proposals in Canada and the United Kingdom.
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