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The Practical Application of Probability in Court: Advancing Science or Timeless Art?

71 Pages Posted: 17 May 2013  

Ennis McBride

Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law

Date Written: May 17, 2013

Abstract

The application of probability to issues of proof and evidence is now a well-developed academic field, forming as it does a central part of the ‘science of evidence’. But how far has that science developed in the practical setting of the court room? Starting from its roots and reviewing its progress to the present day, it is argued that while the science which supports statistical evidence has become ever more sophisticated, almost nothing has changed in English courts so far as what happens during the process of a trial. In this respect, the formal court dress worn by English advocates, largely unchanged since 1685, is emblematic of the lack of progress of probability theory since its inception.

Keywords: evidence, balance of probabilities, beyond reasonable doubt, Bayes Theorem, standard of proof, law and science, likelihood ratios, R v Barry George, R v Adams, R v T

JEL Classification: B30, K40

Suggested Citation

McBride, Ennis, The Practical Application of Probability in Court: Advancing Science or Timeless Art? (May 17, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2266480 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2266480

Ennis McBride (Contact Author)

Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law ( email )

Postbus 9500
Leiden, 2300 RA
Netherlands

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