The judiciary is teaming up with the UK’s leading academies of science to produce guides and training that aim to helps judges, lawyers and juries when handling scientific evidence in the courtroom.
The first ‘primer’, being produced in conjunction with the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, will be on DNA analysis.
Further, the Royal Society, in partnership with the Judicial College, will host a series of seminars for senior judges on relevant scientific topics, such as memory in testimony, probability and mental capacity.
The Royal Society is also working to develop a permanent fixture on the Judicial College training calendar.
The purpose of the primer documents is to present, in plain English, an easily understood and accurate position on the scientific topic in question. The primers will also 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.
An editorial board, drawn from the judicial and scientific communities, will develop each individual primer. Before publication, the primers will be peer reviewed by practitioners, including forensic scientists and the judiciary, as well as the public.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said: “The launch of this project is the realisation of an idea the judiciary has been seeking to achieve. The involvement of the Royal Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh will ensure scientific rigour and I look forward to watching primers develop under the stewardship of leading experts in the fields of law and science.”
Dr Julie Maxton, executive director of the Royal Society, added: “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.”