Some of this book reads like a list of Sherlock Holmes’ lesser-known cases, with references to the Brimstone Butterfly Fraud, Dr Beringer’s hoax, the Midwife Toad and the Patchwork Mouse, which were hoaxes or frauds.
It deals extensively with the many varieties of academic wrongdoing, such as: research fraud; plagiarism; sexual and other harassment of academic colleagues; and retribution against whistleblowers. Ian Freckelton QC also looks at scientific wrongdoing – it is even alleged that Isaac Newton manipulated data to suit his theories – which extends beyond the academic world to experts in courts and tribunals.
Leading Australian QC Freckelton considers the laws of different jurisdictions. Contemporary technology makes plagiarism both easier to perpetrate and to detect. There is even a section on judicial plagiarism where judges have quoted material without acknowledging the source.
Our profession is not left out. A Sussex solicitor called Charles Dawson gets a dishonourable mention as the possible perpetrator of the Piltdown Man fraud. This concerned the fossil remains of an early human. But in the 1950s, thanks to modern dating and chemical analytical techniques, it emerged that some of the bones were modern, dyed and others painted to look old.
In his well-researched account, Freckelton stresses the need to uphold standards in the academic world. And with science and the law both handling evidence, the overlap between the two is interesting.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup and Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury