Expert evidence: Determining reliability

Tuite v The Queen [2015] VSCA 148 is an appellate decision against the background of a criminal prosecution. The court was called upon to consider the reliability of DNA evidence which utilises a relatively new statistical methodology.

Of broader interest is the call by the court for two reforms regarding expert evidence.

The first was a call for  the establishment of a quality standards body — preferably on a national basis — equivalent to the United Kingdom’s Forensic Science Regulator and Forensic Science Advisory Council. That organisation’s role encompasses the establishment and maintenance of quality standards relating to forensic science organisations, processes and techniques, and specifically includes the development of procedures for validating and approving new technologies. A regulatory body of that kind (he court said) could provide independent, expert assessments of the reliability of particular scientific theories and techniques, which would in turn greatly assist the Court in determining the reliability of evidence to be given by a particular expert: [109].

The second was a suggestion that consideration should be given to the development of a further practice note to assist trial judges in assessing evidentiary reliability: [114].

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