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Expert evidence tests plan unveiled

Expert evidence tests plan unveiled

Judges will be able to test expert evidence before a jury is sworn in under new plans drawn up by the Law Commission.

The moves are needed to help reduce miscarriages of justice, the body that reviews and recommends reform of the law in England and Wales said.

One of the country's top judges warned last year that anyone with a "big enough brass neck" and a basic scientific background could pass themselves off as an expert and get away with it.

Lord Justice Leveson, the judge in charge of sentencing, said that while the use of experts was now commonplace, there was a real danger that "a jury may simply defer to the knowledge and opinion expressed by a convincing expert", which may or may not be reliable.

The new test offers clear guidance on how to assess the reliability of the evidence and would apply "whenever there is a real doubt over the reliability of the evidence that a party proposes to use at trial".

Professor David Ormerod, the leading law commissioner on the project, said: "Juries today expect expert evidence to be presented in criminal trials and expect it to be clear and capable of being relied on with confidence.

"The new test will ensure that experts and the evidence they deliver have been scrutinised appropriately and are trustworthy and reliable."

He went on: "Action is long overdue. As far back as 2005 a House of Commons select committee called for a gatekeeping test for expert evidence.

"Our test will go a long way to ensuring that, in future, the expert evidence used in criminal trials is safe, and the potential for miscarriages of justice greatly reduced."

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