Easy-to-understand guides on scientific evidence could be introduced in courts as part of joint efforts to explore common interests between lawyers and scientists.
The lord chief justice, Royal Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh have announced a joint project to develop a series of ‘primers’ on scientific topics, designed to assist judges, legal teams and juries when handling scientific evidence.
The first primer will cover DNA analysis.
Lord Thomas of Cwymgiedd, the lord chief justice, said the project was the ‘realisation of an idea the judiciary has been seeking to achieve’. The Royal Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh ‘will ensure scientific rigour’, he added.
The primers will cover the limitations of the science, challenges associated with its application and an explanation of how the scientific area is used within the judicial system.
Royal Society executive director Dr Julie Maxton said: ‘This project had its beginnings in our 2011 Brain Waves report on Neuroscience and the Law, which highlighted the lack of a forum in the UK for scientists, lawyers and judges to explore areas of mutual interest.
‘We are very pleased to be building on this piece of work and playing a leading role in bringing together scientists and the judiciary throughout the UK to ensure that we get the best possible scientific guidance into the courts – rigorous, accessible science matters to the justice system and society.’
Last year Supreme Court justice Lord Hughes told expert witnesses that he envisaged primers could be used in ‘modest’ matrimonial disputes, where assets such as a house or ‘modest’ ISA were ‘suitable for a single expert’.
He said primers would not put expert witnesses out of work, as there would ‘always be disputed territory beyond the agreed minimum and there will always be litigants who need to go there’.