Vol. 38 No. 2 (2019): Special issue on expert evidence

Forensic Science Evidence, Wrongful Convictions and Adversarial Process

David Hamer
University of Sydney Law School
Gary Edmond
School of Law, University of New South Wales
Cover of UQLJ Vol 38(2) 2019

Published 2020-02-18


The adversarialist approach to criminal justice places a premium on autonomy, efficiency and finality. It trusts that giving parties control will put reliable comprehensive evidence before the trial court. Where forensic science evidence is involved, this trust is often misplaced, and factual accuracy suffers. Often, prosecution forensic science evidence is of unknown reliability and biased, yet the trial judge stays above the fray and allows its admission, the defence lacks the resources to challenge it successfully, and the jury defers to the expert and convicts. On appeal, the appeal court is wary of challenging the jury verdict and reluctant to allow the defence a recontest with bolstered evidence or a different strategy. Post appeal, the opportunities for correction are more limited still. The adversarialist approach to forensic science evidence has contributed to many wrongful convictions. Courts should adopt a more interventionist and informed approach to forensic science evidence.